India, the host country of the 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health, must be a focus for tuberculosis (TB) elimination efforts in order to eradicate the disease worldwide, was the consensus shared by the panel of speakers at the opening press conference today.
“India has the highest TB burden in the world with one in in four of all global cases reported in that country”, said Dr Jamie Tonsing, Director of The Union South East Asia Office.
“We are encouraged by the recent data released in the World Health Organization’s Global TB Report showing that the numbers of people with TB in India are falling, and that is good news. But let’s be honest—progress is still too slow to meet the targets – we need to step up the pace of treatment and prevention.”
Key to reaching those targets is dramatically scaling up preventive measures to stop new infections at the source.
“If we are to make inroads into the epidemic here in India and beyond we need to see a radical scale up of preventive therapy that can help to stop the TB transmission cycle”, said Dr Tonsing.
Prevention is essential to ensuring people are the focus of TB programmes globally. The 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health is putting the spotlight on the voices of survivors to help eradicate the stigma.
“A lot of survivors have been able to attend this year’s conference and we will use this opportunity to make our voices heard”, said survivor, activist and journalist, Nandita Venkatesan. “This conference is a great opportunity to raise important topics, like scaling up drug susceptibility testing, access to newer drugs and access to government treatment programmes.”
“We are not just one among the 2.2 million”, she said, referring to the estimated number of people newly diagnosed with TB in India every year. “We must have a say in the TB response. It is our lives that are at stake.”
Yesterday, the news was announced that work on a vaccine trial is yielding encouraging progress. This is expected to be followed up at the conference this week with a dramatic reduction in the price of a key prevention drug and the announcement of a major clinical trial aimed at preventing multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).
Watch the video of the opening press conference at the 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health.