On Wednesday 20 March, The Union officially launched the 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health, which will be held in Hyderabad from 30 October to 2 November, the first time India has held the conference in its current format.
The announcement was made ahead of World TB Day (24 March), and against the backdrop of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to eliminate tuberculosis (TB) in India by 2025, five years ahead of the official United Nations target set for 2030.
The conference theme Ending the Emergency: Science, Leadership, Action focuses on what is needed to ensure commitments become action, and that lifesaving targets are met. The theme resonates strongly with TB, but it also raises awareness that all threats to lung health – TB, air pollution, tobacco and many more – are emergencies that our science, leadership and action need to meet head on.
Speaking at the launch event, José Luis Castro, Executive Director of The Union, said, “We are honoured to be coming to India and it is our hope that the conference will provide continuing momentum in the drive to eliminate TB both in India and worldwide. The fight to beat TB is at an important crossroads, recognised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to end TB in India by 2025. India is at the heart of this battle and a fitting host country for the conference.”
TB incidence in India has been declining at an annual rate of 1.7 percent since 2016 but it is estimated that it needs to fall by some 10 percent annually if the 2025 elimination target is to be achieved. In 2017, 410,000 people died from TB in India, which was only a three percent drop on 2016 figures. Currently only 65 percent of TB patients in India are treated, which makes reducing the burden of the disease even more difficult, as people living with TB can also transmit the disease further.
At the launch, N Saritha, whose 13-year-old daughter was cured of TB, emphasised the important role of TB survivors, saying “I am delighted that the voices of my daughter and the entire community of people affected by TB including survivors will be heard at the Union World Conference. We cannot end the TB emergency unless TB survivors are front and centre of the response.”
Highlighting the potential impact of the conference, Dr Jamie Tonsing, Regional Director of The Union South-East Asia Office, said, “With the world’s finest researchers presenting the latest scientific developments in lung health, the Union World Conference has the potential to be a game changer for the TB response in India and internationally.”
Some 6000 delegates are expected to attend the conference at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre, making it the largest international health conference ever to be held in Hyderabad. The Hyderabad Convention Visitors Bureau (HCVB) was instrumental in bringing the conference to the city, liaising closely with government officials, private sector representatives and lung health professionals. The HCVB, led by CEO Gary Khan, will support and assist The Union in facilitating the organisation of the conference.
“So much of the work done to eliminate TB is undertaken at state government level in India, so we warmly welcome the opportunity to exchange ideas in such a prestigious international forum,” said Jayesh Ranjan, a senior official from the Government of Telangana.
In 2017, Telengana State reported 45,160 new cases of TB, with 30 percent of the total accounted for in the Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts.