Tuberculosis Activists Rally in NYC Ahead of UN High-Level Meeting

Advocates rally in NYC

It’s been a big week for global health activists fighting to end tuberculosis.

TB, the world’s deadliest infectious disease, is completely curable — but still plagues middle and low-income countries around the globe, killing 1.6 million people every year

Activists see it as a disease of injustice and have committed their lives and careers to making diagnostics, treatment, and care more accessible to those who need it most.

That work includes a recent victory in the diagnostics world. After a strategic pressure campaign by activists, Danaher, the parent company to molecular diagnostics subsidiary Cepheid, reduced the price of its GeneXpert TB testing materials by 20%. And this comes after another successful campaign organized against Johnson & Johnson

While this news is not the home-run activists were hoping for (their goal was a 50% reduction in price, including diagnostic materials for extensive drug-resistant TB), it marks a major step in the right direction.

The news, which hit the airwaves Tuesday morning, came ahead of a United Nations High-Level Meeting on the fight against tuberculosis in NYC, taking place today, Sept. 22. 

In the days between, however, activists have not let up. In New York, educational events and celebratory rallies have marked the arrival of global health specialists and advocates in the Big Apple.

On Wednesday, a group of authors — including New York Times best-seller and TB fighter John Green, and Vidya Krishnan, who wrote the book “Phantom Plague: How Tuberculosis Shaped Human History” — gathered to discuss creating a TB-free world.

And on Thursday afternoon, countless TB activists gathered in New York’s Battery Park to celebrate the recent milestone — and continue the conversation.

“We are here this week because there is a UN High-Level Meeting on tuberculosis happening in New York,” Shailly Gupta, the communications advisor of MSF Access, said in a video, shared by Doctors Without Borders

“So people all over the world, TB champions, TB activists, civil society working on TB, have gathered here to make their voices heard.” 

Activists joined together to welcome Danaher’s price reduction and continue the work left to be accomplished. 

“I’m really excited by the progress that has been made in lowering the price of the standard TB cartridge, but we also know, Danaher, you can do better!” Green says in the video.

“TB remains one of the deadliest infectious diseases. One in three people don’t get diagnosed,” Gupta continued. “Access to these life-saving drugs and tools remain extremely, extremely limited. 

That evening — the eve before the UN meeting — the rallies continued, as activists gathered in Times Square.

Phumeza Tisile, a TB survivor and global health activist shared photos and video from the rally on Twitter.

“Together sending a powerful message of ‘nothing about us without us.’”

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Header image courtesy of Doctors Without Borders

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September 22, 2023 9:50 AM
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