Ramaphosa urged to attend UN meeting on TB

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Civil society groups are calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to attend a historic global tuberculosis (TB) meeting in September, as a show of political will in ending South Africa’s top killer. Health-e News reports that the UN General Assembly, the highest decision-making body in the organisation, will hold its first ever High-Level Meeting on TB in New York in September, to make commitments on the steps needed to end TB.

“Up until now there hasn’t been enough high-level commitment from heads of state in terms of attending these High-Level Meetings (HLMs). We would like President Ramaphosa to publically commit to go to this meeting and to encourage other heads of state to do the same,” said Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF’s) Julia Hill.

Despite being preventable and curable, TB is the leading cause of death in South Africa and the top infectious disease killer globally. The report says that civil society organisations met at the 5th SA TB Conference to discuss what South Africa should prioritise at the HLM and agreed to publicly call on the president to show his commitment and attend the meeting, described as “the most significant political meeting ever held on TB” by the Global Funds Advocates Network.

At the meeting that included organisations like MSF, TB-Proof and the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, civil society agreed to deliver a statement at the TB Conference’s closing ceremony including the call for Ramaphosa’s attendance at the HLM. “His attendance would show political commitment and signifies that TB should be taken very seriously,” said Hill.

She said that TB has been “seriously underfunded” and we need “financial commitment from the highest level for this to be taken seriously”. According to Hill, “one of the other key components of this call to action” is the need for health minister Aaron Motsoaledi to convene a national meeting with stakeholders, particularly civil society and those affected by TB before the HLM “so that the leadership of the country can hear and discuss specific things we can be doing on the ground, where we work, to find, diagnose, treat and support people with TB”.

TB-survivor from TB-Proof Ingrid Schoeman told about her near-death experience with drug-resistant TB. Now cured, she said many people with TB endure worse experiences daily, including losing their lives. She said in the report: “The time is now for our minister of health and president to engage with civil society and commit to attending the HLM on 26 September. Let us stop this suffering.”

Health-e News report

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