World leaders, civil society representatives, and various stakeholders have united to endorse a pivotal declaration aimed at accelerating efforts to eradicate tuberculosis (TB) by the year 2030.
The comprehensive document outlines ambitious new objectives for the upcoming five years, encompassing goals such as reaching 90% of individuals with TB prevention and care services, providing essential social benefit packages to those affected by the disease, and licensing at least one novel vaccine.
TB, the second leading infectious cause of death globally following COVID-19, claimed approximately 1.6 million lives in 2021 alone, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Remarkably, the sole existing TB vaccine is over a century old.
During the second high-level meeting on the fight against tuberculosis on September 22, 2023, the President of the UN General Assembly, Dennis Francis, voiced a pressing question: “Why, after all the progress we have 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?”
Tackling the TB epidemic aligns with the health objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which serve as a roadmap for a fairer and more environmentally sustainable global future by the decade's end.
Half a decade ago, nations set an objective of administering TB treatment to 40 million individuals, but they fell short, reaching 34 million. Another target was to provide 30 million people with preventive treatment, achieving only half of this goal.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed emphasised the urgency to address the primary drivers of TB, including poverty, malnutrition, limited access to healthcare, the prevalence of HIV infections, diabetes, mental health issues, and smoking.
Reducing stigma associated with the disease is equally crucial to encourage people to seek assistance without fear of discrimination. Furthermore, governments must ensure universal health coverage encompassing TB screening, prevention, and treatment.
Ms. Mohammed shared her personal motivation for supporting the global fight, recounting her father's loss to TB 37 years ago: "My commitment is my personal story: losing my father to TB at 50, 37 years ago this week. Today we have the tools to diagnose, treat, and what we need right now is a vaccine. Let's end TB now. It is possible."
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus applauded the remarkable energy and dedication demonstrated by participants during the meeting, where chants of "End TB, yes we can!" resonated frequently. He welcomed the political declaration, which was unanimously agreed upon before the meeting and is slated to be presented to the General Assembly, the UN’s most representative body encompassing all 193 Member States.
He highlighted the immense progress humanity has made, armed with knowledge and tools that past generations could only have dreamt of. This moment presents an unprecedented opportunity to pen the final chapter in the tale of TB, a journey that has spanned millennia.