Union Executive Director calls for cities to play larger role in fight to end TB

The Union’s Executive Director, José Luis Castro, delivered a speech today in Seville, Spain, to mark World TB Day.  The speech called for an urgent acceleration of action against global tuberculosis (TB), and for cities to play a larger role in the fight to end TB.

“We need city leaders who are committed to ending the world’s most deadly infectious disease and beating back the rising tide of drug resistance,” he said.

With the world rapidly urbanising (70 percent of the world's population will live in urban areas by 2050), cities are key stakeholders that the TB community needs to engage to speed progress against TB. Tuberculosis has long been a disease that transmits in urban centres of all countries, rich and poor. With dense populations and common social challenges, the world's cities have a key stake in ending TB.

Drawing inspiration from the city of Seville, Mr Castro highlighted how cities are uniquely positioned to play a pivotal role in beating TB. He said that they have the relationships to urge their national governments to roll out the nine-month regimen. They have closer ties to communities than national governments, and are home to leading universities and research centres, as well as major media outlets and advocacy organisations, giving cities unique capacities to implement change and help turn the tide against the epidemic. 

Reinforcing this vital role, Mr Castro said, “Cities can convene forums, working with their local research university, manufacturers, and representatives from national government, to attract support for TB research and development, whether from the national government, major donors or international institutions.”

Spain has faced the TB crisis first-hand in recent years, being one of a handful of countries where people have been diagnosed with TB that was resistant to every available antibiotic. Mr Castro noted that Seville is a key site of tuberculosis research, with Hospital Universitario Virgen del Rocío generating important studies on TB.

Speaking of practical solutions to the TB pandemic, Mr Castro said, “I propose a network of city mayors who are committed to ending TB in their cities, through an approach that meets the needs of people affected by TB, and is grounded in universal human rights.”

Mr Castro closed with a positive vision for the influence of cities: “We have more power to end TB than we have ever had before. And as the city of Seville is demonstrating here today, our world’s cities have immense capacities that they can use to put an end to tuberculosis.”