This year’s theme for World TB Day – 24 March 2018 – is “Wanted: Leaders for a TB-free World. You can make history. End TB.”
It’s a theme that resonates with me as it focuses on building commitment to end tuberculosis (TB), not only at the political level with Heads of States and Ministers of Health, but at every level including community leaders, healthcare workers, nurses and doctors, partners and stakeholders. In short, each and every one of us.
We can all be leaders in efforts to end TB. We can influence this aim in our own work, region and area of specialisation.
Please help to raise awareness about TB, the challenges we face and the success we can achieve by sharing the materials in our campaign toolkit with your networks.
The elimination of TB would change the world. But the visionary leadership willing to make the necessary commitments to turn this into reality has been lacking. Perhaps it is complacency, an over-riding feeling that TB is someone else’s problem, that has contributed to such global neglect.
On 26 September 2018, we will see the first-ever United Nations High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on TB, only the fifth time that the UN has called for a HLM on a single health issue. It is crucial that this meeting harnesses political support, committed to turning the global tide against TB and accelerating progress towards ending the disease. We must be able to look back on this meeting of governments and political leaders and say that this was the moment the balance shifted toward elimination.This World TB Day, The Union is advocating for action on some key areas that must be represented at the UN HLM on TB:
-US $2 billion for TB research and development (R&D). New vaccines, diagnostics and treatments can only be achieved with adequate and sustained funding commitments. Yet investment in TB R&D is only one-third of the nearly US $2 billion in annual funding needed, so we need innovative tactics. The Life Prize is one such approach that can deliver inventive and collaborative financing mechanisms for R&D into new TB drugs and regimens. We need more like this.
–A global response based on human rights first. It is essential that anyone living with TB should know their status and receive the support they need to complete their treatment. For example, childhood TB is a lethal epidemic that is under-acknowledged globally. Children must be given the same rights to TB care, treatment and research, as adults.
–10 million by 2022. Everyone with TB needs to be treated. It is vital that heads of state across all sectors commit to the target of treating 10 million people annually by 2022. TB is not just a problem of ‘health’, it is devastating to economies, infrastructures and communities. To address it, we need to harness skills across many different sectors and an accountability framework that encompasses all elements of the TB response must be developed and enforced. This includes reviewing progress and results, with the ability to make what remedial action is necessary to keep the plan on track.
Without committed leadership, without input at every level of the TB effort, none of these things will happen. And TB will continue to be a disease that features in our past, present and future. This World TB Day, join us in insisting that the world must commit to eliminating TB for good.
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José Luis Castro