Credit) WHO/ Sam Nuttall

Civil society advocates made their presence strongly felt at this year’s Union Conference on Lung Health in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. While the TB community has been described as having a reputation of being ‘highly technical, precise, and subdued’ this was not the case in Kuala Lumpur.

At the opening ceremony of the Conference around 100 TB activists marched through the Convention Centre just as delegates were taking their seats at the opening ceremony. Many were carrying placards calling for «zero TB deaths», «more funding for TB», and «50% won’t cut it». The last in reference to outrage associated with the draft post-2o15 Millennium Development Goals targets for TB, which are calling for a 50% reduction in TB deaths by 2025. As  Angela Pereira of the ACTION partnership explains, this target would still leave 600,000 people dying every year . Addressing the march, Blessina Kumar, Vice-Chair of the Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board and representative for communities affected by TB said:

The Union conference is the one place where everyone in the TB world comes together. If it were to pass without any significant activist visibility, our calls for action would remain just words. This year we wanted to make our presence felt in a much stronger way.

Making their presence felt, activists also called for more ambitious targets and for  the TB community to ban standard TB terms,  such as «defaulter» and «suspect», which many believe to be harmful language in the fight against TB.

Along with the powerful march, throughout the week there were also a range of debates and discussions lead by global and national TB advocates. Delegates and activists also  met to collaborate and strategise their action in the fight against TB and also shared best practices on community engagement.

Significantly, the closing of the conference consisted of activists, who had come from around the world, calling for zero TB deaths in the first ever civil society declaration on tuberculosis.  The Kuala Lumpur Declaration on TB Civil Society Participation spells out the values, principles, and demands that aim to guide advocacy efforts towards the ultimate goal of zero TB deaths and zero new TB infections. Discussing the declaration, Kolleen Bouchane, ACTION Director, says:

That an ancient disease still kills over a million people every year is a disgrace. Outrage over a lack of ambition from our leaders on TB has finally spilled over, and activists have joined together in this unprecedented show of unity to demand action on ambitious goals.

Click here for the text of the KL declaration.

You can sign on to the declaration by emailing KLZerodeclaration@gmail.com with your name, organisational affiliation (if any), city and country of residence and email address.