The World Health Organization estimated 10.4 million new cases of Tuberculosis (TB) globally, and 1.4 million deaths resulting from the disease. There has been enormous progress made in the global fight against TB, saving an estimated 53 million lives since 2000 and reducing the TB mortality rate by 37%, according to the Global TB Report 2017. This is a result of joint efforts and close partnerships with national and international partners, communities and civil society.

To spark and continue the conversation on TB, the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) hosted a three-day meeting on November 27-29 in Panama among 15 Red Cross National Societies and civil society representatives from 18 Latin American countries, Stop TB Partnership, REDTBLAC, and the Americas TB Coalition.

TB is one of the leading causes of death among infectious diseases globally, killing nearly 5,000 people every day. This disease is preventable and curable, but is also deeply rooted in communities “left behind”, disproportionately affecting those who live in poverty and have limited access to health services. Combined with antimicrobial resistance it can evolve into multidrug-resistant TB, which poses a major health security risk. In addition, people with HIV, are at particularly high risk of contracting and dying from TB.

“One of the Sustainable Development Goals laid out by the United Nations is to stop the TB epidemic and the co-infection of TB and HIV. For this we need to shift the paradigm of this disease. We need to change the way we look at TB and centre our actions around the people who are affected by the disease. We need to sensitize Governments, and promote more effective responses based on human rights and focused on gender sensitive approaches” – said Maria Franca Tallarico, Health Director for IFRC Americas.

The main objectives of the meeting were to build the capacity of TB community advocates and Red Cross Red Crescent (RCRC) volunteers to engage collectively and strategically in TB and HIV advocacy; identify advocacy priorities for the LAC region and strengthen the regional network of Tuberculosis advocates.

This was the first of five meetings to be held at the global level. Together, the Stop TB Partnership, regional TB communities and Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies will conduct regional capacity building workshops. The results, joint vision and agreements made at each meeting will feed into the advocacy strategy in preparation of the High-Level Meeting of the United Nations on Tuberculosis, which will take place in September 2018.