World TB Day Statement from Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership

24 March 2013 - Geneva - Our work is focused on supporting the efforts of more than 1000 partners, so you won’t be surprised to hear that two of the things I value the most are shared ambition and shared commitment. As we come to the end of a busy week of events leading up to World TB Day, I’m pleased to say that both ambition and commitment have been in abundance.

On Monday, the World Health Organization and the Global Fund to Stop AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria made a joint call for an urgent increase in international financing for TB. They cited the growing threat of drug-resistant TB as a reason why we cannot afford to delay the fight against TB any longer. The message was echoed by Médicins Sans Frontières who said on Tuesday that if we do not act now, we risk missing a golden opportunity to contain drug-resistant TB while we still can.

So our ambition is clear. We must scale up our efforts and provide access to TB services for all that need them, especially those that are most vulnerable and at risk. If we do not, we will never end this disease and all the gains of recent years will be wiped out.

At a meeting of health leaders from Africa and international agencies on in Swaziland on Thursday, it was clear that the commitment to make this happen is stronger than ever. Together we signed a statement that commits us to work with Southern African Development Community Countries in the next 1000 days to achieve the international targets of cutting deaths from TB and TB/HIV in half by 2015. These were not just idle words. The organizations represented, including the Global Fund, brought a package of investments and activities worth more than US $120 million to complement countries’ own efforts.

Many commitments were made this week. Today, for the first time we issued a statement with The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, affirming our resolve to take effective action against TB. In India yesterday - following the visit of a delegation of TB advocates - the President made a strong statement on TB, saying that India’s vision is to provide universal access to quality diagnosis and treatment over the next five years to all, regardless of their economic or social status.

The German government issued a statement saying that we can win the fight against TB within this generation. Germany is a strong supporter and partner of the Global Fund. I hope that the Fund’s replenishment drive this year will be successful. Without it, the global fight against TB will grind to a halt.

This World TB Day we have shown that the TB community can unite around a shared purpose. I don’t think that many people would argue with the ACTION partnership, which says that we have the knowledge and ideas to get to zero TB deaths in our lifetime. But we must understand that we need urgently a steep increase in the financing for research and development for new tools- drugs, vaccines and diagnostics - if we are to achieve our goals and eliminate TB. We made huge progress in having new rapid TB diagnosis tools, new anti-TB drugs and new vaccine candidates. We are now at the moment when we need to accelerate our efforts!

So today, and as further World TB Day activities continue next week, I urge you all to speak out about the urgent need for greater ambition in the fight against TB, and the real opportunity that we have to end this epidemic once and for all.

If you need reminding about who we are doing it for, look no further than the latest compilation of stories from the Sentinel project and Treatment Action Group about children bravely battling drug-resistant TB.

Ending TB is our shared ambition, and it is in our power to make it happen. Now!