Groundbreaking pledge of United Nations agencies to end HIV, TB and viral hepatitis epidemics in Europe at high-level meeting on ending TB
For the first time, 14 United Nations agencies have joined forces to end the epidemics of HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and viral hepatitis – Europe’s deadliest communicable diseases. The commitment was demonstrated with the launch of the first-ever United Nations Common Position on Ending HIV, TB and Viral Hepatitis through Intersectoral Collaboration in the WHO European Region.
This took place on 27 September 2018 in New York, United States of America, at a dedicated side event during the United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on ending TB. The meeting’s theme was “United to end tuberculosis: an urgent global response to a global epidemic”.
“Today’s gathering is a milestone in public health: for the first time, 14 United Nations agencies in the European Region bond to prioritize health outcomes and join forces to end the epidemics of HIV, TB and viral hepatitis that are still ravaging Europe,” says Dr Nedret Emiroglu, Director of Programme Management at WHO/Europe.
“As issues like population movement, homelessness, unemployment, malnutrition, violations of human rights, lack of access to education, gender inequalities, and stigma and discrimination have strong influence on these epidemics, the United Nations system must act as one to support countries and save lives. This is the road to get closer to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and this is exactly what we aim to do with this initiative,” she explains.
Developed within the Issue-based Coalition on Health and Well-being, the Common Position was signed by 14 United Nations agencies: the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); the International Labour Organization (ILO); the International Organization for Migration (IOM); the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR); the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE); the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat); the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS); UN Women; and WHO.
Progress and setbacks in ending HIV, TB and viral hepatitis
The Common Position is an unprecedented step by United Nations agencies to scale up efforts to end HIV, TB and viral hepatitis by 2030, as demanded by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3. While the European Region has seen the fastest decline of TB rates globally and a drastic fall in mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the following major challenges remain:
- the Region has the highest rates of multidrug-resistant TB globally;
- TB/HIV coinfections have increased up to 40% over the last 5 years;
- the eastern part of the Region has the fastest-growing HIV epidemic worldwide;
- only 3% of the 15 million people living with hepatitis C in the Region receive treatment; and
- the reforms towards stronger people-centred health systems are slow.
Serving the poor and the vulnerable
The Common Position states that “the poor and those in vulnerable situations, including children, youth, people with disabilities, older people, people living with HIV, people with TB, indigenous populations, refugees, internally displaced people and migrants, stateless people, and in particular prisoners, homeless people, people who use drugs, women and girls, victims of human trafficking or of sexual or gender-based violence, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people” are among those who are not benefitting from the health improvements that have been achieved in the Region.
“Many factors outside the health sector, including socioeconomic and environmental determinants, influence the ongoing epidemics of TB, HIV and viral hepatitis in our Region,” adds Dr Masoud Dara, Coordinator for Communicable Diseases at WHO/Europe. “By their different mandates, United Nations partners are called to address the barriers to sustainable and inclusive development, which are influenced and influence the health and well-being of all.”
A dedicated side event at the General Assembly
The Common Position was the central piece of a side event hosted by WHO/Europe together with the IOM and the Permanent Mission of the Slovak Republic to the United Nations. Participants included high-level delegates from European countries and partner organizations.
The event aimed to demonstrate how the Common Position can strengthen intersectoral collaboration and leverage further progress towards both ending HIV, TB and viral hepatitis and achieving SDG 3. This was a unique opportunity to learn from effective cross-sectoral collaboration, policy and practice on social, economic and environmental determinants of TB, HIV and viral hepatitis, in the spirit of leaving no one behind.
The side event took place within the framework of the General Assembly’s first high-level meeting on ending TB. The General Assembly, including its Member States and partners, endorsed a political declaration to revamp commitment by all, ensure the availability of resources, strengthen international collaboration for research, support the development of new tools, and develop a multisectoral accountability framework.
The high-level meeting took stock of the commitments that ministers of health and other leaders from 120 countries took in Moscow, Russian Federation, at the end of 2017 to accelerate progress to end TB.