TB-Free India Summit sees high-level commitment from Indian government officials to end TB by 2025

With a focus on multisectoral collaboration and partnerships, the TB-Free India Summit brought together a broad range of Indian political leaders including Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare JP Nadda and Speaker of the Lok Sabha Sumitra Mahajan, as well as representatives from the Global Fund, The Union, the World Health Organization, local NGOs and the community affected by tuberculosis (TB) to reaffirm commitments towards ending TB.

Hosted by The Union in collaboration with Anurag Thakur, Member of Parliament and Global Fund Champion, and supported by the Global Fund, the event, held 2-3 February, featured two days of panel discussions and the TB vs India Cricket Tournament where some 65 Indian policymakers faced off in a televised event to highlight their commitment to end TB in India.

The scale of the TB global health emergency was acknowledged by the United Nations at the inaugural High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on TB in New York last September, culminating in a Political Declaration signed by world leaders committed to ending TB by 2030. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has committed to eliminating TB in India by 2025, five years before that global target.

“This weekend's participation by the Indian Parliament Speaker, Union Ministers, Chief Ministers, Parliamentarians from across party lines in the cricket tournament and the TB-Free India Summit demonstrates the spread of political commitment across the country to ending the disease in India.” said Anurag Singh Thakur, co-host of the summit.

The TB-Free India Summit comes days prior to the preparatory meeting of the Sixth Replenishment of the Global Fund, hosted by the Government of India. The Global Fund is looking to raise US$ 14 billion for the next three-year phase of work.

"India is both a donor and an implementor of the Global Fund – this is the first time an implementing country has hosted a preparatory meeting." said Dr Marijke Wijnroks, Chief of Staff at the Global Fund. "It’s amazing to see the energy around TB in India. As a political force and the sixth largest economy in the world, countries are looking to India for leadership."

Dr Jamie Tonsing, Regional Director of The Union South East Asia Office, shared experience from a highly successful Union-Global Fund initiative to end TB in India, Project Axshya, which has created a powerful network of local partners, community members and volunteers working to extend the reach of TB services and information in India.

Speaking during a panel discussion on ‘Partnerships for Progress Towards a TB-Free India’, she said: “Our approach is to complement the work of the government, which often means reaching out to the most vulnerable populations that are unable to access public health care services; bringing in new stakeholders to garner multi-stakeholder response for complex issues, providing technical expertise to build capacity, develop policies and guidelines, and conducting research to inform these policies.”

TB survivor and advocate Deepti Chavan had three key requests: more investment in TB, safer drugs and shorter regimens. Nandita Venkatesan, who lost her hearing as a result of her TB treatment, added “deaf or death is often the choice we face.”

2019 is a critical year for TB, as the global community works to ensure commitments made at the UN HLM on TB translate into action and progress against the disease.

The Union will continue to provide a platform for discussions around ‘Ending the Emergency: Science, Leadership, Action’ at the upcoming 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health, to be held in Hyderabad, India, from 30 October to 2 November.