Lessons from Africa: developing a global human rights framework for tuberculosis control and prevention

Slagle, Tracy; Ben Youssef, Mehdi; Calonge, Golda; Ben Amor, Yanis

Background: Tuberculosis is a highly contagious disease, and there has been a rise in recent years of drug-resistant cases no longer responding to standard treatment. In order to address this threat and contain possible transmission of drug-resistant cases, some countries have taken strong action, including the compulsory detention of non-adherent drug-resistant patients. These measures have been strongly criticized by human rights advocates, and they raise the question of how to legally protect both citizens and the community. Discussion: Following discussions with National Tuberculosis Programs in Africa (the continent with the highest incidence rates of tuberculosis worldwide), we show that of all the countries surveyed, all but one (Swaziland) had either no specific policy addressing tuberculosis, or only general policies regarding public health applicable to tuberculosis. Six countries also reported having policies that address non-adherence to treatment with containment (isolation in health facilities or incarceration), but laws are not adequately enforced. If the international community wants to effectively respond to the threat of tuberculosis transmission, there is a need to go beyond national tuberculosis policies and to implement an international framework for tuberculosis control, inspired by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a key model for future public health treaties that address global burdens of disease. The framework, for which we clarify the conditions and procedures in this piece, would define the rights and responsibilities of the different stakeholders involved: patients, doctors, pharmaceutical firms and public authorities. To facilitate the governance of the national obligations under the Convention, a coordinating body should be set up, under the leadership of the World Health Organization and the Stop TB Partnership. Summary: Successfully implementing policies for tuberculosis that simultaneously address patients’ rights and communities’ wellbeing will have positive implications for those affected by the disease and serve as a basis for other global health conventions to truly ensure the global right to health.

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Also Published In

BMC International Health and Human Rights

More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth Institute
BioMed Central
Published Here
December 12, 2014


Tuberculosis, Drug-resistant tuberculosis, Framework convention, Human rights