Every day, ~4,400 people across the world die from tuberculosis (TB). You may think that TB is a disease of the past, but you would be mistaken. Though this bacterial disease has been around for thousands of years, it is the biggest infectious disease killer today, causing 1.6 million deaths in 2017 alone, 300,000 of which were people living with HIV (PLHIV) who died due to TB.

TB remains the leading cause of death among PLHIV, with TB accounting for around one in three AIDS-related deathsi. Combine this with factors such as poverty, malnutrition and limited access to care, it is evident that a great number of people are being left to fend for themselves. And this is happening in 2018, when technologies and approaches exist to help them.

 

UN High Level Meeting made targets to act against tuberculosis

 

But let’s talk about what gives us hope. In September this year, the first-ever United Nations High Level Meeting on TB was convened at the UN General Assembly in New York. A political declaration was endorsed and signed, including very strong commitments and targets. It now remains to be seen if the promises made in New York will be kept.

Because, promises have been made before in many other UN High Level meetings – delivering and being accountable for them is where the challenges stand.

 

The targets we must meet to reduce HIV-related deaths by 75% by 2020

 

The 2016 political declaration on HIV and AIDS, adopted the following in its resolution 70/266 of 8th June 2016: ‘Commit to working towards the target of reducing tuberculosis-related deaths among people living with HIV by 75% by 2020, as outlined in WHO’s End TB Strategy, as well as commit to funding and implementing to achieve targets set in the Stop TB Partnership’s – Global Plan to End TB 2016–20201.’

In the TB UN high level meeting political declaration, member states commit to: ‘Provision of preventive treatment, with a focus on high-burden countries, so that at least 30 million people, including 4 million children under 5-years-of age, 20 million other household contacts of people affected by tuberculosis, and 6 million people living with HIV, receive preventive treatment by 2022.

Commit to providing diagnosis and treatment with the aim of successfully treating 40 million people with tuberculosis from 2018 to 2022, including 3.5 million children, and 1.5 million people with drug-resistant tuberculosis, including 115,000 children.’

 

Trying to deliver every single target all at once can mean we lose focus

 

Of the 40 million people with TB, the aim is to treat 4 million people who are HIV positive.

These are unprecedented targets for us that will require vision, ambition, funding and focus. I think that too often we try to deliver too many things all at the same time and we lose focus. 

Therefore, I would like to suggest that, in 2019, we focus. We know that one in four PLHIVii don’t know their status and one in two people with both HIV and TB don’t know about it.

This World AIDS Day, in full sync with the theme “Know your status”, I call on the TB and HIV communities together to ask people to: KNOW YOUR HIV/ KNOW YOUR TB STATUS. For far too long, we were shy in asking that everyone should know their HIV and TB status. It’s time for action, it’s time to deliver together. Can we?

 

1 www.stoptb.org/assets/documents/global/plan/GlobalPlanToEndTB_TheParadigmShift_2016-2020_StopTBPartnership.pdf

i http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/fact-sheet

ii http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/featurestories/2018/september/20180917_WAD_theme