2017 at a glance

We look back at some of The Union's key moments from 2017.

TB cultures in a lab
Image shows TB cultures in a lab. 

Following the release of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of antibiotic-resistant ‘priority pathogens’ which excluded tuberculosis (TB), The Union successfully campaigned for its inclusion. In September 2017, the WHO released the Priority Pathogen Report and highlighted drug-resistant TB as a priority for research and development in the battle against antimicrobial resistance.

“TB’s exclusion sends the false and counterproductive message that drug-resistant TB is not an urgent public health threat.”
- José Luis Castro, Executive Director, The Union

Throughout 2017 The Union campaigned for increased investment into research and development for TB. The Union is working with a number of partners on a new mechanism, The Life Prize (formerly the 3P Project) to incentivise new funding into TB R&D, to facilitate the development of TB regimens of the future and ensure that they are available for all. The Life Prize aims to unite researchers to collaborate and develop a one-month (or shorter) treatment regimen for all types of TB, which works for everyone, everywhere.

STREAM, the first large-scale, multi-country trial to evaluate shorter treatment regimens for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), released preliminary results from Stage 1 of the trial. The results showed that the nine-month treatment regimen tested achieved favourable outcomes in almost 80 percent of those treated. Although the trial results did now show the efficacy of the nine-month trial to exceed those of the 20-24 month regimen, the trial setting meant that more patients completed treatment on the 20-24 month regimen than is often the case in real-life settings. In routine programmes unable to achieve the high STREAM retention rates, the nine-month regimen may actually perform better in comparison.

The STREAM trial also enrolled its 100th patient in Stage 2 of the clinical study, which is currently underway in Ethiopia, Georgia, India, Moldova, Mongolia, South Africa and Uganda. Stage 2 is investigating an additional all-oral nine-month treatment regimen for MDR-TB, which would eliminate the painful injections that cause some of the severest side effects associated with treatment.

Prof Andrew Nunn, statistician at the MRC Clinical Trials Unit at University College London
Image shows Prof Andrew Nunn, statistician at the MRC Clinical Trials Unit at University College London and STREAM co-chief investigator, presenting the results of the trial during the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Guadalajara, Mexico, in October.  

Phumeza Tisile, former XDR-TB patient

Phumeza Tisile, former XDR-TB patient, now advocates for better treatment, increased funding and more research into TB. “I survived XDR-TB. It took me more than three years to get cured. I took 20 tablets a day, injections every day for six months. It made me go deaf, I had to drop out of university. Drug-resistant TB is hard to treat, but it is curable.”  

On World TB Day, The Union looked for ways to accelerate progress against the challenges that remain in ending TB. José Luis Castro addressed a high-level summit of parliamentarians representing the G20 in Berlin, and spoke in Seville, Spain, urging acceleration of action against TB. And around the world, Union offices organised and participated in rallies, spoke with the press, convened meetings and advocated on behalf of patients for more funding, increased political will and the end to TB stigma. 

The Union continued to make childhood TB a priority in the lead up to the United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB, to be held in 2018. The DETECT Child TB project in Uganda, which saw TB diagnosis in children increase from under 5 percent to 40 percent in its first year, continued to strengthen district- and community-level healthcare delivery to improve childhood TB case finding, treatment and prevention. The project is designed to develop and test a model that can be applied at different levels of health care to address the health system challenges that are currently contributing to low detection of TB among children. 

child in the waiting area of Kasangati Health Centre

Image shows a child in the waiting area of Kasangati Health Centre, in Wakiso District, Uganda.  

Dr Bairaj works from a small clinic in the village of Datauli

To improve TB services, Project Axshya has trained over 5,000 rural healthcare practitioners to diagnose and treat TB. Dr Bairaj works from a small clinic in the village of Datauli. 

Project Axshya, The Union’s extensive civil society initiative working to strengthen TB care and control in India through advocacy, communication and social mobilisation, has reached over 17 million people from vulnerable and marginalised populations with information on TB symptoms. Axshya, working in partnership with seven sub-recipient partners, more than 1,000 local NGOs and nearly 15,000 volunteers, facilitated the diagnosis and treatment of over 25,000 TB patients. 

On World No Tobacco Day, The Union participated in a high-level event held in conjunction with the UN Principals for Responsible Investment initiative and four major finance companies, that released a statement affirming their public support for international efforts to reduce tobacco use under the WHO’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control.

China’s fourth most populous city, Shenzhen, became 100 percent smoke-free after a law banning smoking in all indoor public places came into full force on 1 January 2017. More than 20 million people are now protected from the harms of second-hand smoke. The Union supports the Shenzhen Non-Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Centre through technical assistance under the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use and worked with the municipal government and partners to launch this new phase of the smoke-free policy. 

A resident of Shenzhen adds his signature to an anti-smoking wall on World No Tobacco Day

A resident of Shenzhen adds his signature to an anti-smoking wall on World No Tobacco Day. 

Amitabh Bachchan, TB survivor and ambassador, in an advertisement for the TB-Free India Summit

Amitabh Bachchan, TB survivor and ambassador, in an advertisement for the TB-Free India Summit, held in April 2017.

The TB-Free India Summit brought together top government officials and members of parliament along with big-name Indian celebrities to raise awareness and increase momentum to the fight against TB. The event brought a national focus to the issue of TB and galvanised support and commitment from key stakeholders, including from government, politicians, corporate partners and donors to pool resources to end TB in India.

The Union’s Centre for Operational Research continued to enhance operational research capacity in TB, HIV/AIDS and NCDs around the world through its training courses. Two-thirds of the research published as a result was found to have had a concrete impact on public health policy or practice 18 months after publication. 

Prof Anthony D Harries, Senior Advisor, Research, speaks with course participants

Prof Anthony D Harries, Senior Advisor, Research, speaks with course participants.

Hein Htet San (left), 18, leader of the new Young People Living with HIV Volunteer Network

Hein Htet San (left), 18, leader of the new Young People Living with HIV Volunteer Network. He and 20 of his peers provide support for young people living with HIV through The Union’s IHC programme in Myanmar. 

On World AIDS Day, The Union’s scientific publication, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IJTLD), featured editorials addressing the current state of TB-HIV diagnosis and treatment and measures to improve both. Read the editorials here: World AIDS Day 2017 and Test and treat for TB-HIV.

The Union Office in Myanmar provided antiretroviral therapy to more than 28,000 people living with HIV through its Integrated HIV Care programme, implemented in collaboration with the National AIDS Programme and the National TB Programme. Union staff and volunteers in Myanmar also conducted active case finding activities for TB, including facilitating over 7,000 health information sessions and referring 10,000 people showing TB symptoms for testing. 

The Union’s Zoonotic TB sub-section collaborated with the World Health Organization, the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations to publish the first-ever Roadmap for Zoonotic TB, which addresses the major health and economic impacts of the disease. 

Dr Paula I Fujiwara holds up a copy of the Roadmap for Zoonotic Tuberculosis during a press conference at the Union World Conference in October

Dr Paula I Fujiwara holds up a copy of the Roadmap for Zoonotic Tuberculosis during a press conference at the Union World Conference in October.

Two nurses at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Zimbabwe

Two nurses at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Zimbabwe. 

The Nurses and Allied Professionals sub-section released an update to the guide Best Practice for the Care of Patients with Tuberculosis: a Guide for Low-Income Countries and the Adult and Child Lung Health section successfully applied to add a combination inhaler to the WHO Essential Medicines List, which will significantly improve the outcome of people with asthma in low- and middle-income countries. 

Scientific region conferences in North America, Africa and the Asia Pacific brought together Union members, researchers, policy-makers, lung health experts and advocates to focus on regionally-specific questions and interventions to improve lung health. Union Region Conferences are driven by the member organisations in each region and are at the heart of their success. 

Delegates march in the ‘Every Breath Counts’ walk during the 20th Conference of The Union Africa Region in July

Delegates march in the ‘Every Breath Counts’ walk during the 20th Conference of The Union Africa Region in July. 

Chief Wilton Littlechild, Civil Society and Indigenous People Representative

Chief Wilton Littlechild, Civil Society and Indigenous People Representative, during a plenary session titled ‘The Road to the UN HLM’ at the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health, held in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The Union World Conference on Lung Health was distinguished by some of the most innovative science for combatting TB and its co-infections seen in recent years -- supporting the conference theme: ‘Accelerating Toward Elimination’. Delegates from more than 100 countries attended the four-day scientific programme of plenaries, symposia and abstracts presented by global experts. 

Uruguay hosted the WHO Global Conference on Non-Communicable Diseases in Montevideo in October. The Union’s Executive Director, José Luis Castro, and Legal Advisor on Tobacco Control, Gustavo Sóñora, attended the conference on personal invitation from President Vázquez. They met privately with Vázquez prior to the conference to discuss their dedication to reducing NCDs globally and Uruguay’s proven record prioritising the health of its people.

José Luis Castro with President Vázquez of Uruguay in Montevideo in October

Image shows José Luis Castro with President Vázquez of Uruguay in Montevideo in October. 

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addresses health ministers at the WHO Global Ministerial Conference on Ending TB in Moscow, in November. 

In November, national delegations from 118 countries including over 70 Ministers of Health and other sectors attended the WHO’s Global Ministerial Conference on Ending TB in the Sustainable Development Era, reaffirming their commitment to ending the TB epidemic by 2030. A study, launched by the Global TB Caucus prior to the conference reported that the TB epidemic will cost the world economy close to US$1 trillion by 2030 unless progress is drastically accelerated. The momentum from this meeting will guide The Union, its partners and the global TB community towards the UN High-Level Meeting on TB in 2018. 

Photo credits: Will Boase, Javier Galeano, Steve Forrest, Aditi Sharma, Courtesy of the Shenzhen Center for Non-Communicable Disease Control, Jan Schmidt-Whitley, Dasha Burns, David Andoh, Marcus Rose, Gustavo Sóñora, World Health Organization