New global commitment to end TB by 2030
The document sets out ambitious new targets for the next five years, which include reaching 90 percent of people with TB prevention and care services, providing social benefit packages to those with the disease and licensing at least one new vaccine.
TB is the second leading infectious killer worldwide after COVID-19with around 1.6 million deaths : died in 2021 alone according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The only available vaccine is more than a century old.
Defeating a killer
“Why, after all the progress we’ve made—from sending man to the moon to bringing the world to our fingertips—have we been unable to defeat a preventable and curable disease that kills over 4,400 people a day?” said the President of the UN General Assembly, Dennis Francis.
TB has plagued humanity for millennia, going by numerous names including the white plague and consumption.
It is caused by bacteria and mainly affects the lungs, and treatment is with antibiotics. ONE WHO council set up to facilitate the development and fair use of new vaccines met for the first time this week.
A personal commitment
Eradicating the TB epidemic is among the health goals of Goals for sustainable development (SDGs), the roadmap for a fairer and greener global future by the end of the decade.
Five years ago, countries set a target of providing TB treatment to 40 million people and reached 34 million. They also aimed to provide 30 million with preventive care, but came up with half.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed called for action to tackle the main causes of tuberculosis – poverty, malnutrition, lack of access to health care, the prevalence of HIV infections, diabetes, mental health and smoking.
Stigma surrounding the disease must also be reduced so people can get help without fear of discrimination, she added, while governments must ensure universal health coverage that includes TB screening, prevention and treatment.
Mrs. Mohammed also shared his own reason for supporting the global fight.
“My commitment is my personal story: losing my father to TB at 50, 37 years ago this week,” she said. “Today we have the tools to diagnose, treat, and what we need right now is a vaccine. Let’s stop TB now. It’s possible.”
Stigma fuels death
Mongolian writer Handaa Rea, who has survived the disease, called on world leaders to “treat tuberculosis not only medically, but also socially.”
She has written about her own experience of TB-related stigma, discrimination that she said is widespread in many developing countries, resulting in “hundreds of thousands of people” delaying seeking treatment.
The consequences of stigma are “more amplified” for women and girls who are held to higher standards of health, well-being and beauty, she added.
“When society says things like ‘she is too thin because she has TB, she is unworthy of marriage because she has or has had TB, or she continues to have TB because she is irresponsible’, we bully as community TB patients one step closer to death – a death that is entirely preventable. And this must stop,” she said.
The last chapter
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the “fantastic” energy in the room, with attendees often chanting “End TB, yes we can!”
He welcomed the political declaration which was adopted by consensus ahead of the meeting. It will be presented to the General Assembly, the UN’s most representative body, which includes all 193 member states.
“For millennia, our ancestors suffered and died with tuberculosis without knowing what it was, what caused it, or how to stop it,” he said.
“Today we have knowledge and tools they could only have dreamed of. We have political commitment. And we have an opportunity that no generation in human history has had: the opportunity to write the last chapter in the history of TB.”