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The Director’s Corner

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UN General Assembly Meeting is “critical moment on the road to 2018 TB high-level meeting”

A message from José Luis Castro, Executive Director, The Union

As the United Nations’ General Assembly (UNGA) in New York (12-25 September) gets underway, we reach an important milestone in the build-up to the UNGA’s first-ever high-level meeting (HLM) on tuberculosis (TB) in 2018.  This is one of several crucial markers on the road to the HLM, which include the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global TB Ministerial Conference in Moscow, 16-17 November, and the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Guadalajara next month.

For the global health community, these are critical moments to raise awareness of the continued threat of TB and drive efforts to stamp out the world’s most prevalent infectious killer. We must ensure that these gatherings of Heads of State, governments, TB stakeholders and activists, result in increased political will, new resources and investment, and positive actions that impact the lives of people affected by TB. Not just patients – though this is reason enough – but their families; the professionals struggling in inadequate healthcare services; the communities whose economies are blighted because of illness and death. That is the reality of TB – it spreads far and wide, destroying society and community.

At the UNGA meeting this week, I shall be meeting with colleagues, partners and ministers to make these points because the chilling statistics associated with TB are getting worse.

TB is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, responsible for more deaths than HIV and malaria. An estimated 1.8 million people die from TB, of which 0.4 million are co-infected with HIV. Overall, 10.4 million people fall ill with TB – too many of them are undetected, not found, and/or lose their life.

Yet despite this terrible reality TB is so often sidelined. TB urgently needs the attention of political decision makers and influencers if we are to realise the Sustainable Development Goals and achieve universal healthcare and greater quality of life for all. Global targets will only be met when all countries move faster to prevent, detect and treat TB. Ending TB is a priority for us all.

I look forward to the UNGA meetings this week – and we will be looking ahead to the UN HLM on TB next year, because the clock is ticking. We have an historic opportunity to end this disease forever. It is time to make good on this promise.

More about the General Assembly of the United Nations 2017

*Statistics from WHO Global tuberculosis report 2016