Lord Herbert of South Downs speaks at Berlin TB Symposium
The 15th Scientific Symposium on the occasion of World Tuberculosis Day 2022, “Beyond the corona pandemic: Tuberculosis control and health care system development – Rational approaches in meeting SDG 3” was held earlier this year, from the 18th to 19th of May. This symposium discussed current trends in TB research and control while considering the state of health systems across Europe and worldwide. This symposium welcomed experts from all across the TB sphere, including representatives from WHO EURO office, health politics, private companies, hospitals, and other TB facilities from all over the world; discussing the imminent questions and concerns of TB control in the near future. Time was devoted to the war in Ukraine and its impact on the world, but particularly in the Europe region due to migration, as Ukraine has the biggest number of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) cases in Europe.
Lord Herbert of South Downs CBE PC, Global Co-Chair of the Global TB Caucus, was one of the distinguished guests who spoke during the symposium. His talking points were broad and relevant to the focus of the Caucus, as well as TB at large in the context of the global sphere.
One of the first things that was brought up was the role of Germany in tuberculosis response. Germany has long been a leader in Global Health, and they have used their G7 Presidency to foster healthy lives, by aiming to protect people from future pandemics, the increasing emergence of antimicrobial resistance and ongoing climate change. Not only are they the 4th largest public donor to the Global Fund, they have also shown a continued leadership in funding product development partnerships, conducting R&D for health technologies to combat neglected diseases. This is exactly the kind of leadership we need in this day and age.
The G20 is home to more than half of the world’s TB burden, and the G7 members represent approximately 46% of GDP, so both the G20 and G7 have a critical role in determining the future of the disease, given that Indonesia and Germany both have strong interest and leadership in Research & Development, AMR, and pandemic preparedness. This year is also a crucial moment in eliminating TB: since agreeing on the UNHLM’s 2022 targets in 2018, the global health response has not been on track to meet those targets, even prior to the targets being established.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has been a learning experience, and it is now clear that investing in health systems and strengthening all existing infectious disease prevention, diagnostics, and treatment is crucial for the future.
Lord Herbert also discussed the importance of guaranteeing global follow-through on pledges and commitments for the Global Fund’s 7th Replenishment: 2020 was the first time (since the Global Fund’s inception) that progress against TB, malaria, and HIV regressed. A successful replenishment would put countries back on track to end TB, malaria, and HIV by 2030; while also accelerating progress towards SDG3 and Universal Health Coverage. Most importantly, this would strengthen health systems against future pandemics while providing adaptable & community-centred funding in the face of crises. This also means a commitment to increased efforts and funding for TB R&D, while accelerating progress for new shorter treatment regimens, alongside effective and equitable vaccines and improved diagnostics.
Mr Stephan Albani MdB, Chair of the Western European region of the Global TB Caucus, hosted a parliamentary evening where he opened the space for dialogue with partners and civil society, after iterating the need for parliamentarians to engage with science, and to focus discussions on TB R&D, achieving the SDGs, and integrating TB within AMR, given around 1 in 3 deaths caused by antimicrobial infections today are due to drug-resistant TB.
Germany has shown leadership in funding for Product Development Partnerships (PDPs) conducting research and development for health technologies to combat poverty-related and neglected diseases. PDPs TBVI and IAVI were present at the meeting, discussing the case for innovative partnerships to tackle both TB and HIV.
As crises arise, we must ensure that TB care is available and accessible for refugees and migrants worldwide. There is an increasing need to discuss how migration affects the health of people affected by TB, and what is necessary when supporting them. Lastly, we need renewed support for the UNHLM on TB in 2023; to reaffirm the previously agreed upon targets and get the world back on track to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Now, more than ever, we need to strengthen international ties and work together to ensure a holistic and collaborative response to TB that is properly financed, accountable, and sustainable.
About the Global TB Caucus
The Global TB Caucus is the world's largest independent parliamentary network with over 2,500 members from over 150 countries. The network covers 4 geographic regions: Europe and Central Asia, Africa, America, Asia-Pacific and 2 language regions - Francophone and Portuguese. Parliamentarians of the Caucus work both collectively and individually to accelerate progress in the fight against TB.
Photo Credits to Rodion Kutsaev