Union statement: the need to ‘accelerate progress’ in the fight against TB is paramount

Leaving no-one behind is fundamental to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), formally adopted by the United Nations as core to international development.

Yesterday’s report in The Lancet (12/09/17) considers if the world is ready to deliver on aims such as universal healthcare (UHC) and finds that, at current rates of progress, fewer than five percent of countries are projected to reach 2030 targets for 11 indicators, including tuberculosis (TB).

A follow-up article in Le Monde (13/12/17) asserts that eliminating TB by 2030 is the world’s “impossible goal”.

These reports are important commentaries on our progress – progress that has been found wanting. If we are to eliminate TB by 2030, we can no longer rely on all the same solutions to problems that we have relied on to date. The stakes are too high.

The Union works in some of the world’s poorest communities where weak infrastructure, lack of investment and uneven quality in healthcare provision all impact negatively on achieving the SDGs and the aim to eliminate TB.

The Union has long advocated for advancement and investment at some fundamental levels to change this picture for good.

The first is the prioritisation of investment into research and development that will ensure more effective, cheaper, shorter TB treatments that are available to everyone, no matter their country of residence. The goal should be a treatment regimen that cures all forms of TB with treatment lasting a month or less.

The second is achieving universal access to high-quality, comprehensive TB care.

Dramatic progress has recently been made on developing shorter treatment regimens for multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), thanks in part to The Union’s early research in Francophone Africa that resulted, last year, in the World Health Organization’s endorsement of a nine-month treatment regimen, compared to a previous 22- to 24-month standard.

But for this to be truly effective at reducing the incidence of MDR-TB, countries must move quickly to roll out the treatment, including providing better training and support for health workers and investing in complementary strategies that will help to strengthen healthcare services, such as mobile technologies and integrated services that provide support for associated illnesses, like diabetes, and for psychosocial support.

The aim to eliminate TB by 2030 is not an impossible one, but it is one that will challenge the world’s resources and the collective will to make good on its promise.