GFAN Speaker Timur Abdullaev is human rights lawyer from Uzbekistan. He is a person living with HIV and a TB survivor, and he is a Board member of TBpeople, the global network of people affected by TB, as well as the Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board. He spoke at the Civil Society Hearing at the UN in New York on June 4th as an important step in the lead-up to the UN High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis.
Timur spoke at the UN at the beginning of June and outlined some of the biggest challenges we are facing in the fight against TB today:
- Every year, over 10 million people get sick with TB.
- Of them, 40 percent are “missed” by health systems – their TB is not diagnosed, meaning they receive no care or treatment, and their infection goes unreported.
- A large proportion of people infected with TB are “missed” due to the fact that historically, many TB programs are chronically disconnected from the human rights dimension of the epidemic.
- The overwhelming stigma and discrimination of a TB diagnosis – particularly among those living with HIV – discourages many people from seeking diagnosis and treatment.
Timur called for a rights-based response to the TB crisis and argued that neglecting human rights undermines TB responses. He pointed out that foreign nationals or expats feared seeking a diagnosis as they could be deported. In some countries, failing to adhere to TB treatment can result in arrest and imprisonment. Children can be separated from their parents while they are being treated, even beyond the infection period. These realities being faced by thousands around the world are NOT rights-based responses to the TB crisis. The international community has already agreed on universal human rights that all people, including people with TB, are entitled to. However, the reality is that for many people, a TB diagnosis often signals the point when they cease to have many of these inalienable rights. If we allow this to continue, we will never be able to end TB.
On June 4th, 2018, the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations convened an Interactive Civil Society Hearing at the UN in New York as an important step in the lead-up to the UN High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis, scheduled to take place on September 26th, 2018, during the UN General Assembly. 24 panellists, moderators, and members of TB-affected communities were invited by the PGA to share their stories and expertise with the crowd of hundreds, including UN country mission representatives, NGOs, CSOs, academics, representatives from the private sector and scientific communities, and those affected by TB. Among those invited to speak was GFAN’s Timur Abdullaev, whose experience as a human rights lawyer and advocate for those living with HIV and TB has made him a prominent fixture at a number of related events over the years.
In the days following the Hearing, members of affected communities and civil society also had the opportunity to sit down with their country missions to continue to conversations started during the Hearing, and be able to stress to them the importance of including strong language on human rights, accountability, and concrete financial targets within the Political Declaration that will result from the UN High-Level Meeting on TB. A strong Declaration will be crucial to holding countries, UN agencies including the WHO, and affected communities and civil society accountable to the commitments we are all making as a joint effort to end TB once and for all.
In his presentation, Timur stressed that only by ensuring, respecting, and protecting the rights of people with TB will the world be able to end the epidemic. The Declaration must demand that the global TB response enshrines as its first tenet the human rights and dignity of all people infected with and affected by TB.
The full video of interventions made by all participants is available at http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/treaty-bodies/watch/part-2-interactive-civil-society-hearing-on-the-fight-against-tuberculosis/5793786867001/?term=
Timur’s remarks are at 1:27:54 and 2:54:38.
The UN High Level Meeting on TB will be in New York on September 26, 2018.