On World TB Day The Union looks for ways to accelerate progress

The first World TB Day on 24 March 1982 was created to commemorate the discovery of M. tuberculosis by Prof Robert Koch one hundred years before. On this, the 36th World TB Day, throughout The Union we honour that scientific discovery and are reminded that the next great steps are needed now more than ever. We must accelerate progress if we are to realise the goal of ending the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic by 2030, as set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the WHO End TB Strategy.

In a message for World TB Day, the Executive Director of The Union, José Luis Castro, considers the progress made to date and the challenges we still face in ending TB. He asks the TB community to speak with one united and unmistakable voice to call on the World Health Organization to rectify its omission of TB from the list of ‘priority pathogens’.

Today, Mr Castro spoke in Seville, Spain, reinforcing his call for an urgent acceleration of action against TB. Urging cities to play a larger role in the fight, he proposed a network of city mayors who are committed to ending TB in their cities.

Registration opens today for the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health, to be held in Guadalajara, Mexico, on 11-14 October with the theme ‘Accelerating Toward Elimination’. It will unite members of the international TB community in a vibrant programme dedicated to achieving the ambitious targets set for the global lung health agenda. Register now, early discounts are available.

The 6th Conference of The Union Asia Pacific Region commenced on 22 March, drawing hundreds of delegates to Tokyo to discuss the latest in lung health developments. Today saw a host of symposia and activities on advancing our efforts to end TB.

Parliamentarians came together throughout the world this week to strengthen political will and plans to address TB.  José Luis Castro addressed a high-level summit of parliamentarians representing the G20 in Berlin. He called for TB to be recognised as the central threat for antimicrobial resistance (AMR).  The Global TB Caucus, co-founded by The Union, convened the summit to discuss the current response to TB and agree a plan of action for G20 leaders to pursue on TB and AMR.  

The Union and partners launched the India TB Caucus, a cross-party alliance committed to government efforts to rid the nation of TB. And Union staff attended a meeting in New Delhi, India, which resulted in all 11 member states of the South-East Asia Region signing a Call for Action to End TB. 

Union offices around the world spread the message on World TB Day.

In India, Regional Director of The Union South-East Asia Office, Dr Jamhoih Tonsing, was widely quoted in the media speaking about Childhood TB and gave interviews to CNN and Good Morning Delhi.

Also in India, J P Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare launched the next phase of a multimedia campaign - #IndiaVsTB - featuring TB Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, developed by The Union South-East Asia office. The campaign features videos that will run on local TV stations throughout the country. The launch received substantial media coverage including the Times of India.

The Union Zimbabwe Office held a community discussion forum with traditional leaders in the hosting district, Shurugwi, a mining town in the midlands province. The event saw Chiefs, headmen, councilors and church leaders come together with local healthcare workers to discuss TB and share information about World TB Day. 

In Mexico, a press conference was held to launch the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health in line with World TB Day. Speaking at the event, Director of The Union´s Mexico Office, Mirta Molinari, said, “Mexico and Latin America are both places where passionate work is being carried out in the field of lung health, especially in TB and tobacco control. It is fantastic that the Union World Conference is in Guadalajara.”

In Myanmar, in the lead up to World TB Day, The Union Myanmar office reached out to communities, to raise awareness and education of TB by participating in celebrations of the traditional Shwe Sar Yan Pagoda festival. The celebrations were attended by around 10,000 people.

The Union China Office organised a meeting of researchers, healthcare workers and other experts in TB to discuss methods for tackling latent TB infection (LTBI). Participants from China, the United States and Taiwan shared experiences and discussed methods for LTBI testing as prevention against active TB.

Union staff also contributed to numerous blogs and media including an article for the NCD Alliance on the importance of confronting both TB and diabetes simultaneously, written by Dr Sarabjit S Chadha, of The Union South-East Asia. And the Union’s Grania Brigden discussed the importance of developing new treatments for TB, in PLOS blogs.

The first Stephen Lawn Memorial Lecture took place in London and Cape Town. The lecture, ‘An epidemic uncurbed: tuberculosis control measures in Cape Town, 1910 to 2010’, was given by Prof Robin Woods of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, University of Cape Town.  

On World TB Day The Union highlighted that it is the voices of patients, communities and civil society organisations that carry the most inspiring message of all.

TB survivor, Phumeza Tisile, said: “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. The medication made me deaf. I had to drop out of university. Drug-resistant TB is hard to treat, but it is curable.  I can hear now, with cochlear implants. And I am going to study at the University of Cape Town.”

TB survivors gathered on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, to share their experiences with policymakers who have responsibility for determining the US government’s response to tuberculosis both in the US and worldwide. Advocates are requesting that Congress provide US$450 million for global TB programmes administered by USAID. 

When the TB community joins together in solidarity we are capable of great progress. Let us continue the momentum created this World TB Day to accelerate progress towards our goal of ending TB.