Prevention, people and partnerships at the 19th Conference of The Union Latin America Region

In his opening address to attendees of the 19th Conference of The Union Latin America Region, which took place during the 12th Congress of the Asociación Latinoamericana de Tórax (ALAT), in Panama, The Union’s Executive Director José Luis Castro issued a positive call to action for all involved in the fight to end TB to focus on strategies based on people, partnerships – and perhaps most crucially of all – prevention.

He said: “Progress against TB across Latin America has stagnated. We see alarming gaps in access to TB care, and a serious need to improve prevention. The region is urbanising, creating conditions for TB to spread while worsening the quality of the air people breathe. Non-communicable diseases are on the rise.”

“There are no scenarios in which we can eliminate TB without a dramatic increase in prevention. This means reaching people living with TB infection,” he said.

“Prevention is especially relevant for Latin America, which has low rates of active disease compared to many other areas of the world.

“But even in high burden countries, we need to think creatively about how to scale up access to treatment for both TB disease and TB infection at the same time.

“It is in the vital interest of heads of state and government to champion TB elimination.”

Projected figures by international accounting firm KPMG estimated that between 2015 and 2030, 28 million people will die from TB and the global economy will lose a trillion dollars because of TB.

“We cannot allow this to happen,” José Luis Castro told the #ALATPanama2019 delegates. “That’s why last year’s United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB was so critical.”

“The political declaration that came out of that meeting, endorsed by virtually all of the world’s governments, provides a road map for action. The political declaration is perhaps the best global advocacy tool that we have had for TB in our lifetimes.

“Commitments made include providing TB treatment to 40 million people between 2018 and 2022, including 3.5 million children.

“Providing preventive therapy to 30 million people living with TB infection, including four million children under age five.

“To make all of this happen, world leaders also committed to providing ‘sufficient and sustainable financing’ for TB care. This includes, by 2022, providing two billion dollars annually for research and development of new tools, and 13 billion dollars annually to deliver TB care.

“It’s up to us to make sure that the political declaration on TB is not just another document. It’s up to us to ensure that 10, 20, 100 years from now, we can look back and see that the 2018 UN High Level Meeting on TB was an historic turning point in our efforts to end the global scourge of TB.“

In addition to his comments on the importance of focussing on prevention as a key strategy to end TB, José Luis Castro also spoke about how The Union has made it a priority to work with TB survivors and communities affected by TB, and is committed to partnership working with all representatives from across the public and private sectors to ensure that key messages are shared and objectives are met.

Held in Central America for the first time, the Conference of The Union Latin America Region and the ALAT Congress brought together delegates including clinicians, researchers, health care professionals, politicians, the media and people affected by TB to discuss regional approaches to lung health challenges, including TB, lung disease, tobacco control and air pollution.

The Union’s Scientific Director Dr Paula I Fujiwara gave a presentation on TB and Diabetes, while Latin America Regional Director Gustavo Soñora spoke on TB and tobacco.

Find out more about the 19th Conference of The Union Latin America Region and the 12th ALAT Congress on their website.