The Director’s Corner

The Director’s Corner

The Union’s world conference draws on historic legacy to bring collaborative thinking to Liverpool

A message from José Luis Castro

This week registration opened for The Union’s annual conference on lung health.  This is the world’s largest meeting of scientists, global advocates and healthcare professionals working in all aspects of this field, including tuberculosis (TB), HIV and tobacco control. Only by collaborating will we win the fight for lung health and now more than ever the conference provides the platform we need to hear all the voices in this debate and find the innovation and paradigm shift needed.

The Union’s world conference has been leading the way in innovative thinking and ground-breaking scientific progress since the nineteenth century.  Our conference dates back to 1867 when a field of international experts convened in Paris to discuss the pervasive spread and intractability of TB, then known as ‘The White Plague’. 

At that point, a staggering one in four people in Europe were dying from TB.  The disease seemed insurmountable and lay waste to populations worldwide, striking indiscriminately.  A diagnosis of TB was frequently a terminal one, cutting short lives once rich in promise.

In the twenty-first century, this criminal waste of life should be a thing of the past.  TB is, after all, preventable and curable.  But it remains one of the greatest threats to health globally, with nearly nine million new cases each year.  If left untreated, each person with active TB infects an average of 10 to 15 people annually.  And the treatments themselves are no longer infallible.  New mutations are fast out-pacing the benefits of traditional combative drugs.  In 2014, the global burden of estimated cases of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) was nearly 500,000, with 190,000 succumbing to these drug resistant strains.  We are losing momentum in the fight against TB.  The TB community has to find new responses and solutions – and fast – before the problem overwhelms us.

Now, The Union’s world conference is more relevant than ever and is a critical opportunity for all those working on TB and other chronic lung diseases to come together and share research, successes and our responses to existing and new challenges. Last year in Cape Town, the conference hosted the community space, Imbizo, progressing the latest ideas in community solutions for lung health. The conference also presented some major scientific breakthroughs including a new shortened treatment regimen for MDR-TB patients and we hosted the Global TB Summit, which saw 48 parliamentarians endorse the Global Plan to End TB 2016-2020.

In Liverpool in October, we will be building on that progress.  Liverpool’s own history is steeped in scientific and medical research and is home of the world famous Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.  It is the ideal location and moment in time to move towards our common goal of stamping out TB by 2035.

Join us in Liverpool on that journey towards making it happen


José Luis Castro
Executive Director
The Union



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