A message for the entire TB Community: 2018 - the year when we make it, or break it!

The WHO’s Global TB Report 2017 was launched today. This is my statement following its release. It will be a short statement so we can spend a little time reading, and more time thinking.

The WHO’s Global TB Report 2017 shows no significant or uplifting progress against all important indicators.

The data indicate very small decreases in estimated TB burden and deaths and thus a stagnation in coverage of services. The estimated number of people developing TB remains the same high figure at 10.4 million, mortality reduced from 1.8 to 1.7 million, treatment success for drug sensitive TB remains the same at 83% and that of drug resistant TB remains low at 54% globally. Looking at the drug-resistant TB situation - a significant indicator for the global antimicrobial resistance (AMR) response - we notice that in 2016, only 4,060 more people with MDR-TB were diagnosed and treated versus in 2015. This means that only 22% of the overall estimated number of new MDR-TB cases globally are being treated and reported. Only 1 in 3 new people diagnosed with TB had the "luxury" of getting a rifampicin resistance test.

These numbers are reflecting the work that happened in 2016, the first year under the new Global Plan to End TB 2016-2020. Compared with the 2015 baseline, there is no progress.

I simply don’t want to go over more numbers. It is not the point. The point is that with all our hard work, the efforts of everyone at country, regional and global level we did not move. We are far away from bending the curve. We are far away from closing the gaps between estimated people with TB and those lucky to be diagnosed and treated. Lets pause and think about it and what that means:

It means that what we have and what we do now is far from what is needed in terms of finances, political will, bold decisions, new approaches, scale and coverage, technical knowledge, understanding of mycobacterium tuberculosis, adequate tools, right efforts, ambition, empathy, and desire to save lives.

It means we need to do something in 2018, because we need the hope, we need the enthusiasm that we can do this, we need to show that we can really end TB.

For me, and for many of us, 2018 should be the year to make it, or break it!

If we fail to have in 2018 an increased coverage of efforts, a significant more number of people with TB and DR-TB diagnosed, put on treatment and cured, higher funding for research and development of new tools and approaches and a successful UNHLM meeting, I am afraid our energy and hope will go to a lower level.

Myself and the entire team of Stop TB Partnership will work with even more ambition, determination, with no hesitation and with all our partners towards this.

But, can I challenge the entire world and TB community that during 2018, we get united and we all go together shoulder to shoulder in this war with mycobacterium tuberculosis and we do our very utmost in order to ensure:

These are not new targets but fully aligned and within the Global Plan to End TB 2016-2020 and WHO End TB Strategy milestones. These are my own numbers for the work that is to happen in 2018.

My dream: to have a WHO Global TB Report issued in 2019 (it should be much earlier than November) and to have these numbers inside. That we can get the energy, the hope and the enthusiasm that we can bend the curve and continue on our way to end TB.

Of course, if we want to reach these targets, we will need the "means" to go there: we will need increased finances and spending (and the financial targets for implementation, scale-up and research will need to be met), but we need to also use the resources we have better, we need country programmes to roll out new drugs, new formulations, new regimens, new policies and technologies, we need data and evidence that comes in a timely manner and is not paper based and is transparent and solid, we need a multisectoral approach and a genuine engagement of civil society, communities and all those affected, we need political commitment, we need more ambition, effort and desire to change.

And this is why we must build on the Global Ministerial Meeting on TB happening in Moscow, on the Stop TB Partnership’s Board in New Delhi, on the World Health Assembly, towards a strong United Nations High Level Meeting (UNHLM) on TB in September 2018. And in line with the above targets, we must have a 2-day UNHLM for TB in September 2018 in New York, attended by at least 40 Heads of State and Government who will commit towards a strong Political Declaration, including a UN General Assembly (UNGA) based accountability framework towards achieving the SDGs and ending this disease.

This is a dream of mine - that we can aim for all the above - not in 10 years, not in 5 years, but next year. To work together, to push together and to hold all of us accountable on achieving this.

I challenge all of us to make 2018 to be the year when we will make THE difference and show that we know and we can end TB.

Because, all that we do is translated in human lives saved. And for humans, there are only two times in life: NOW and TOO LATE.

For us, it is not TOO late, but it must be NOW! Action!