From September 12-13, the Americas TB Summit 2022 was held in Asunción, Paraguay: the first meeting of its scale in over two years. Hosted by Deputy Pastor Vera Bejarano of the Americas TB Caucus, 12 Latin American countries were represented and the regional network gained eight new members committed to strengthening the response to tuberculosis in their respective parliaments. In its Official Act, the Cupula de had the distinguished presence of Attended by Mario Abdo Benítez, President of the Republic of Paraguay, highlights included speeches from Co-chair Luis Gallo and Civil Society Representative Giorgio Frayunti.
In photo: Members of the Americas TB Caucus with the President of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez
Paraguay was chosen to host the meeting because of its exemplary parliamentary role in the fight against Tuberculosis, even as COVID-19 related delays affected efforts. In 2021, Deputy Pastor Vera Bejarano, alongside civil society and the Pan American Health Organisation, led movements to develop and approve a law in Congress that established rights and obligations in prevention, comprehensive health care, and social protection of people affected by TB. This law is now pending further regulation, making it one of the main points of discussion during the Summit.
For his dedication to the Caucus’ cause and exemplary performance in securing political will and raising awareness, Deputy Pastor Vera Bejarano was unanimously appointed by his colleagues as the new Co-chair of Americas TB Caucus, alongside Deputy Luis Enrique Gallo.
Exchange of experiences
Over the summit’s two day duration, members of parliaments and civil society shared the urgent needs, challenges, and gaps towards increasing visibility and encouraging action against TB in their respective countries. Common gaps found in the region are a lack of awareness, the lack of sustainable financing, the impact of COVID-19 on health services, and an absence of laws to protect the human rights of people affected by TB.
Paraguay’s case served as a guideline on effective actions to raise the profile of TB into high-level national agendas. Zulma Unzain (director of the NGO Alvida), Guillermo Sequera Buzarquis (Director of Health Surveillance for the Paraguay Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare), and Dr. Sarita Aguirre (director of the National TB Program) all shared their experiences and insights towards developing laws to protect the human rights of those affected by TB.
The event also had speakers from the Panamerican Health Organization: Dr. Pedro Avedillo, who contextualised the current situation of TB in the region; and Dr. Ignacio Ibarra, who led an important discussion on TB legislation. The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria was represented by Filippo Iarrera, who explained the nuances of TB funding and the need for countries to understand that financing tuberculosis is not an expense, but rather an investment. Veronica Montes (External Relations, Global Fund), highlighted the importance of Latin American pledges in the 7th Replenishment and encouraged those present to join the campaign.
The parliamentarians signed a Political Declaration reaffirming their commitments to the fight against TB. Among the 12 commitment clauses were concerns about the following: the mitigation of Covid’s impact on the response to TB; support and adherence to the UN HLM 2023 campaign; and how best to fulfil these commitments, particularly for migrants, indigenous peoples, children, people with HIV, and other marginalised groups affected by social circumstances.
All over the Americas
The 12 countries represented in the Americas TB Summit were Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Colombia, Panama, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. To know more about the parliamentarians, check @GlobalTBCaucus on Instagram.
The Americas TB Summit was a partnership between Americas TB Caucus and ObservaTB.