NEW YORK – National leaders gathering here this week should not be thinking about whether they have the money needed to end the global public health threat of TB, South African Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi said Sunday. Rather, he said, they should be asking if they can afford not to act.
Motsoaledi was one of a series of national and international leaders and advocates focused on eliminating the worldwide impacts of tuberculosis who spoke at the TB Innovation Summit held ahead of the first UN High Level Meeting to address the disease.
Having the maximum number of leaders commit to closing the gaps in TB detection, treatment and prevention – which includes finding the four million people globally who go undiagnosed and untreated every year – is the critical first step in ending the epidemic, Peter Sands, head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria said.
“If we have the political commitment to do it, we can figure out the science and financing,” he said.
But, while getting heads of states to commit to strong targets on TB research and responses is imperative for meeting global goals to achieve epidemic control by 2030, Lucica Ditiu of the Stop TB Partnership said, developing a mechanism that would hold governments accountable on achieving targets is what will really make the High Level Meeting impactful.
“If we come out with just a piece of paper with signatures and no accountability looking at what we deliver or not, it won’t make any difference,” Ditiu said.
Speakers at the summit agreed that people and community-centered approaches to TB are needed to strengthen the global TB response. “Putting people first will not happen unless we want to, and unless we hold ourselves accountable for what we do,” Ditiu said.
Director General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in turn emphasized innovative incentive models and stronger partnerships with industry to boost the discovery of needed innovations, including new drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines, as well as new and better, people-centered ways to deliver those products.Developing innovative ways to improve TB service delivery will depend on “meaningfully boosting engagements with sectors outside of health,” Tedros, who is known by his first name, said.
Rabita Aziz is the Senior Global Health Policy Specialist at the Infectious Diseases Society of America and is representing IDSA (which produces this blog) at the United Nations High Level Meeting on Ending TB and related side events at the UN General Assembly this week.