MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT AND INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - PROF GUY MARKS
We have made great strides towards eliminating tuberculosis (TB) over the last 100 years. This progress was only possible as a result of our commitment to research and innovation.
On World TB Day 2022, it is important to reflect on our achievements to date. However, it is also vital that we continue to advance our knowledge through research and implement it into policy and practice.
In order to achieve this and end TB, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) is calling on the TB community to challenge ourselves to think differently, champion science and embrace evidence-based innovation.
For The Union, this means:
- Prioritising the active identification and treatment of everyone with TB to prevent transmission
- Using the latest digital communications, imaging and diagnostic tools at our disposal
- Undertaking clinical, public health and operational research to create knowledge for action
- Involving communities and motivating them to embrace the concept of eliminating TB
- Challenging TB inequity globally
It can no longer be accepted that people in low- and middle-income countries are, every day, infected, becoming sick and dying with TB, while people in high-income countries are unaware that TB still exists. We have learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic about the need for equitable access to and provision of healthcare for everyone. We need to apply this lesson to the other great global pandemic: tuberculosis.
While COVID-19 has had a detrimental impact on TB – with deaths increasing for the first time in over a decade – it has reminded the developed world of the dangers infectious diseases pose. More importantly, it has shone a spotlight on the approaches that we must take to prevent the spread of airborne particles. For COVID-19, the tactic is masks and vaccines; for TB, it is finding and treating people with the disease.
If an annual 1.5 million deaths due to TB is not a pandemic, then what is? TB must be treated as an emergency. Which is why we must call on world leaders to keep the promises they made at the UN High-Level Meeting 2018 and #InvestToEndTB.
Despite the limited funding (in particular when compare with COVID-19), there have been significant TB research triumphs in the past decade, such as:
- Molecular tests make diagnosis possible in less than two hours, rather than 2–4 weeks
- Treatment of multidrug-resistant TB has been shortened from two years of toxic, injectable agents to six months of an all-oral regimen
- Treatment of TB infection has been cut from nine months to as short as 1–3 months with safer and better tolerated regimens
These breakthroughs are testament to our commitment to science. In order to make the next great breakthrough in TB elimination we must nurture an environment where evidence-based innovation can flourish.
Such an environment will be challenging to sustain given the current hardships we are facing globally. These times of unrest provide good conditions for TB and other lung diseases to run rampant. We must, however, remain positive and challenge ourselves to think differently, champion science and embrace evidence-based innovation to end TB.