Wanted: Leaders for a TB-free world

2018 provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to grow international leadership to tackle TB, the world’s deadliest infectious disease. After years of inadequate political efforts to reduce the high human and economic costs of TB, over the last year, we have finally started to see higher-level political engagement, as world leaders have begun to realise that increasingly drug-resistant tuberculosis poses a clear danger to global health. This year, the first ever UN High-Level Meeting (HLM) on TB in September will allow world leaders to put their stated ambitions on TB into action, make concrete commitments, and develop ways to hold countries accountable for their promises.

World TB Day (24 March) is a chance each year to show the importance of taking action to fight TB. Because of this year’s unprecedented opportunity at the HLM, it is vital that we use World TB Day 2018 to build support among parliamentarians and the public in the run-up to that meeting. With a history of UK leadership on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and investing in TB programmes, the UK has the power to help set the tone of the HLM, and to ensure that the process gets the attention it deserves. So it is vital that the UK Government treats the HLM with the highest degree of urgency. Prime Minister Theresa May should attend the event, and use her presence there to help develop a concrete plan for ensuring that countries make and deliver on ambitious commitments to tackle TB.

2018 is a unique year in which to take action. If we are to meet the global target on TB eradication, much more political support at the highest level is needed. In September this year, the first ever UN High-Level Meeting on TB will provide the opportunity for world leaders to do just that.

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