Barcelona, Spain — Wednesday evening’s opening provided a mix of activists, prestigious health ministers and parliamentarians all of whom called for bold action to eliminate the toll of death and illness associated with the world’s longest standing infectious disease — tuberculosis. Activists from South Africa and Los Angeles led the list of prestigious speakers by detailing the litany of challenges associated with lengthy and toxic TB treatment and ended with calls to “cough up the money” for the development of drugs that are safer, more effective and patient friendly and for quality and humane treatment for patients with drug-resistant TB, most of whom either go undiagnosed or are unsuccessfully treated.
Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Health and Family Welfare in India and a physician who was associated with India’s success in eliminating polio, lamented the days when patients were blamed for failing TB treatment and outlined six key actions to “accelerate efforts to make TB history.”
- Embrace the power of belief that we can “end TB, not merely reduce preventable deaths.”
- Forge new partnerships involving all sectors including civil society and the private sector and Vardhan noted the recent Indian requirement that the corporate sector invest 2 percent of profits to benefit he community at large.
- Untap the power in health financing and health systems for maximum health impact by providing leadership for strategies to implement universal heath coverage – prevention and care with minimal out of pocket costs to patients.
- Deploy the power of evidence by ensuring more rigorous collection and dissemination of data and evaluation of services.
- Use communication and social media to stimulate and sustain individual and social behavior changes through partnering with communities.
- Promote gender equality at scale.