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UN High-Level Meeting on the fight against TB: Prioritise science and evidence-based policy to end TB

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The Union's UN High-Level Meeting on the fight against tuberculosis (TB) statement from Dr Kobto Koura, Director of Tuberculosis

Established in 1920, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease is a global membership, technical and scientific organisation striving to achieve a healthier world for all, free of tuberculosis and lung disease.

Many commitments have been made and are being renewed today, but without effective strategies, meaningful actions and significant investment we will inevitably continue to miss our targets.

The Union supports the latest political declaration on TB, but we need to go beyond agreeing words on a page. We urge world leaders and donors to prioritise science and evidence-based policy in our mission to end TB. To achieve this we must nurture an environment and culture where dogma is questioned, innovation and ambition are encouraged, and the pathway for translation from research to practice and policy is cleared.

That said, we would argue that we already have many of the tools, programs and expertise to end TB. New developments, including better molecular diagnostics, radiology and drug therapy, together with evidence about the epidemiology of TB in high-burden settings are making the task much more feasible. We are running out of excuses NOT to end TB in high-burden countries.

What is becoming much clearer is that we need different approaches to ending TB in high TB burden countries, where the disease is endemic and everyone is at risk, all the time, compared with low TB burden settings, were TB is sporadic and most people have a very low risk of being infected with TB. Approaches that recognise the specific needs of countries and communities.

It is also clear that we will not end TB anywhere without ending it everywhere, which is why The Union reinforces the call to invest sustainably, financially and technically in high-burden countries. This is where we will see the best return on any investment.

A lot is said about the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is time to learn from it, reclaim the strategies that were originally designed to tackle TB and even adopt the increased capacity created by COVID.

For the benefit of people affected by TB, TB control does not need competition between stakeholders. Only through a collective and concerted effort can we hope to end TB and pave the way for a healthier, more equitable world.

We appreciate it is easy to get lost amongst the noise, agendas and competing priorities during these landmark meetings, but we must concentrate on what has delivered all our major TB breakthroughs to date – the science.