Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. The document states that humans are entitled to these rights by virtue of being humans regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, or political affiliation. TBEC has confirmed its continued commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of TB affected communities across the WHO Europe region through people-centered, rights-based responsive, and gender-equitable TB care. Earlier this year, TBEC developed a policy brief “COVID-19- the new reality of ending Tuberculosis” for the second anniversary of signing the Political Declaration of the UN High-level Meeting on TB. 

The human rights-based response to TB is a relatively new approach but very significant in the fight against TB. The right to health is established in the UDHR and six other international treaties. According to Article 12 of the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, governments have the obligation to ensure that quality goods and services, including healthcare services, are available to everyone without discrimination and should also be accessible to everyone. There have been calls for the respect of human rights and ethical principles to be observed in every area of TB care. This has been in the WHO’s End TB Strategy and Ethics Guidance and in the Declaration of the rights of people affected by Tuberculosis.

However, in reality, a lot of human rights violations have been witnessed globally and in most cases without any consequences for the perpetrators. The right to health entails a wide range of entitlements and freedoms. Access to good quality health facilities, good services, and goods on a non-discriminatory basis is a core component of the right to health and an obligation of every state. This, therefore, means that people affected by TB have a right to good quality vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics to prevent, diagnose and treat latent TB infection, TB disease, and drug-resistant TB (DR-TB). It also means that those affected by TB have the right to access health facilities, where they can obtain good quality, people-centered care from trained healthcare workers.

This year, the theme is to “Recover Better-Stand Up for Human Rights” This is in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on creating equal opportunities for everyone to address the failures and disappointments exposed by COVID-19. There has been a significant impact on population health. It has aggravated long-standing systematic health and social inequalities, disproportionately affected marginalised and vulnerable populations, and has had a substantial impact on the health care systems. 

In the TB sector, the COVID-19 pandemic has restrictive measures to overcome it, it is causing serious short- and long-term disruptions to TB services and will compromise the achievements and results made in recent years to end the TB epidemic. According to a modeling work conducted by the Stop TB Partnership, Imperial College, Avenir Health, John Hopkins University, and USAID, the impact of COVID-19 will set back achievements made to end TB by 5-8 years. The anticipated outcome of a 3-months lockdown followed by 10-month rehabilitation of the TB care system will equate to an additional 6.3 million people with TB and 1.4 million TB deaths between 2020 and 2025.

Attaining the right to health for people affected by TB will lead to better individual and public health outcomes. Availability and accessibility of best vaccines, diagnostics, and treatment to everyone affected by TB means that states must keep up to date with global recommendations and guidelines set up by WHO.  The rights recognised under TB care are the rights to be free from discrimination, rights to privacy and confidentiality, right to information, and rights to liberty.

In conclusion, a human rights-based TB response supports and intensifies public health measures and good clinical practices in health care systems. This approach is founded on the dignity and autonomy of people affected by TB and the critical role they must play in all aspects of the disease from diagnostics, treatment, and vaccines of those affected by TB. A right-based approach places special focus on TB key and vulnerable populations, it demands gender-sensitive response, it exerts existing law at national, regional and international level to promote and strengthen the response.  The respect for human rights under TB care promotes the health and well-being of individuals, and in doing so, protects public health. 




Human Rights Day 2020