Clinical Lecturer in Law Brian Citro, Associate Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, is lead guest editor of a Special Section of the Health and Human Rights Journal on TB and the right to health, and co-author of the section’s Editorial. Published by Harvard University Press and housed at the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health, the Health and Human Rights Journal aims to create a “forum for action-oriented dialogue among human rights practitioners.” The special section includes six papers and two perspective pieces. The IHR Clinic is credited as collaborator for the section.
Even as TB has surpassed HIV as the top infectious disease killer in the world and the global threat from multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) continues to grow, approaches to fighting the disease remain primarily biomedical and public health-based. These traditional approaches dominate global and national TB programs and research on the disease, and they largely ignore the underlying social, economic, and structural factors driving the epidemic and drug resistance. All the while, the highest TB burdens exist where vulnerability and marginalization increase the risk of infection and disease and erect barriers to accessing testing and treatment services. Developing countries, for example, account for 95% of all TB cases and deaths, and disease prevalence within countries reflects the same startling disparities between the wealthy and the poor. Despite this, and in stark contrast with efforts to combat HIV, human rights have played only a peripheral role in efforts to prevent and treat TB.
The six papers and two perspectives in this special section cover diverse topics and concerns related to TB and the right to health, with a broad geographic scope. These include the lack of adequate research and development of health technologies for TB and the right to benefit from scientific progress; imprisonment and compulsory treatment of people with TB; human rights-based approaches to TB in advocacy, litigation, and assessment strategies; and accountability and the human rights obligations of governments and international organizations to prevent and treat TB. Several papers also examine problems in specific contexts around the world, including in Kenya, North Korea, Peru, and India.