Stop TB Partnership and WHO build high level commitment towards 2018 UN High Level Meeting on TB

23 September 2017 - New York, USA - On the occasion of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly and the upcoming 2018 UN High Level Meeting on TB, the Stop TB Partnership in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) held a high-level reception this week to present the case for action on ending TB, and the need for the highest levels of commitment to ensure a successful UN HLM on TB.

The reception, United to End TB: A Global Response to a Global Emergency, was attended by UN and government leaders, civil society and CEOs with remarks given by the Chair of the Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board and Minister of Health for South Africa, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, WHO’s new Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the newly-appointed United States Agency for International Administrator (USAID) Mark Green, and Kate O’Brien, a TB survivor from the U.S. who was diagnosed while she was pregnant.

In giving the opening remarks at the reception, USAID Administrator Mark Green stressed the Agency’s commitment to ending TB and called on countries to increase their domestic spending on TB and improve the use of their existing budgets. He also noted that the most effective approach to addressing the broad range of issues associated with TB is multisectoral, rather than one which solely relies on a medical model.

USAID is the single largest bilateral partner on TB and the lead U.S. Government agency on international TB. The U.S. Government’s strategy to end TB focuses on improving access to high quality, patient-centered TB, drug-resistant TB, and TB/HIV services; preventing TB transmission and disease progression; strengthening TB service delivery platforms, and accelerating research and innovation.

Minister Motsoaledi who spoke on behalf of the Stop TB Partnership Board said, "The purpose of our event is to build political commitment to TB ahead of the UN HLM on TB, to raise awareness of the importance of UN leadership on TB, and position the UN HLM on TB as a historical opportunity which deserves the highest political attention. I hope that this evening will challenge each of us to commit to ensuring that the UN HLM on TB is a global success and that it leads to concrete and ambitious outcomes linked to clear accountability systems that will put the world on course to ending TB by 2030."

"I call on all development partners to join the effort to eliminate TB as a public health threat in our lifetime. I call on our heads of states and governments to join our UN HLM next year and commit to address TB and the burden this disease represents globally and nationally. I am sure that with our partnership, we will be able to achieve the vision of ending TB."

Unless the world commits to addressing this challenge now through a rapid scale-up of efforts towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and full implementation of currently available tools, decades of progress will be undone and the billions of dollars invested in fighting TB will be wasted.

Speaking at the event, Ms O’Brien, said, "It's really important that people realize how important this moment is, how they have the power to create change, to save lives. I think it's a very rare opportunity that is coming from a very urgent need. If we don't take full advantage of this meeting, if we don't secure commitments, we are wasting a chance to save millions of people."

Stop TB Partnership’s Executive Director, Dr Lucica Ditiu said, "I am delighted and honored to have commitments at the highest levels as we start our countdown towards the UN HLM on TB next September. I feel that TB is starting to get the political attention it rarely had and this gives me hope. We can scale our efforts and investments and we can end TB by 2030. We need the world leaders and decision makers to understand this.

During the reception, WHO launched two reports. The first report, ‘Antibacterial agents in clinical development - an analysis of the antibacterial clinical development pipeline, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ shows a serious lack of new antibiotics under development to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). In addition to MDR-TB, through the second report, WHO also identified 12 classes of priority pathogens - some of them causing common infections such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections - that are increasingly resistant to existing antibiotics and in urgent need of new treatments.

"TB is one of the bacterial pathogens for which WHO has signaled a critical need for research and development of new drugs - as outlined in two new reports issued today. Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will seriously jeopardize progress in modern medicine," said Dr Ghebreyesus. "There is an urgent need for more investment in research and development to address antibiotic-resistant infections including TB, otherwise we will be forced back to a time when people feared common infections and risked their lives from minor surgery. The UN HLM on TB represents a great opportunity to accelerate our efforts to end TB and WHO will work in partnership with all stakeholders to ensure our common success."

In 2015, more than 10 million people became ill with TB and 1.8 million died. Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) alone killed 250,000 people a year, making it the leading killer from AMR.

Additional interventions were also made by Ambassador Koro Besho, Permanent Representative of Japan to the UN in New York, Baroness Sugg CBE, Lord's Whip for International Development, UK, Mel Spigelman, President and CEO of TB Alliance, and Chewe Luo, Chief of UNICEF’s HIV/AIDS Programme.