This guest blog was originally posted by Kate Thompson, Global TB Caucus Secretariat Co-ordinator, on the Global TB Caucus website on 20 November 2017.
Last week, Ministers of Health from around the world met in Moscow, Russian Federation, for the Global Ministerial Conference (GMC) on Tuberculosis (TB). The meeting, which was convened by the World Health Organisation, was held to drive political action to address the global TB epidemic. The meeting brought Ministers and other high-level political representatives from across the world - and particularly from high TB burden countries - together to agree on the path to end the TB epidemic.
The event marked a turning point in the development of a global strategy to address the TB epidemic, and the Moscow Declaration, the outcome document, laid the foundations for an accelerated political response in advance of the United Nations High Level Meeting (UN HLM) on TB in 2018. As the UN HLM will be attended by Heads of State, it will build on the commitments made in Moscow, to drive TB further up the political agenda, and to develop a comprehensive response to TB and uphold the commitments made in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
At the conference, Ministers committed to a comprehensive call to action, namely advancing the TB response within the SDG agenda, ensuring sufficient and sustainable financing, pursuing science, research and innovation, and developing a multi-sectoral accountability framework.
Sustainable and effective financing of the TB response is an urgent priority, as countries move away from international financing and are increasingly funding their TB responses from national budgets. One of the key outcomes of the GMC was the requirement that each country fully funds a national TB programme, if they are not doing so already, to make sure that TB is properly found, diagnosed, and treated in a way that ensures that the patient is at the centre of TB care.
The commitment to pursue science, research and innovation is significant as the development of a new group of anti-TB drugs, or an effective TB vaccine, would revolutionise the response to TB. Speaking at the Global Ministerial Conference, Global TB Caucus Co-chair Rt Hon Nick Herbert CBE, MP, said: “A vaccine for adolescents and adults would be the single most cost-effective tool to help end this epidemic”. Between 2015 and 2030, data recently released by the Global TB Caucus predicts that 28 million people will lose their lives, if the global response to the TB epidemic continues business as usual. This is not acceptable. It is also clear that price of inaction will be incredibly high. The new data estimates that the global economic cost of TB could amount to nearly US $1 trillion between 2015-2030.
The establishment of a multi-sectoral accountability framework was also highly significant. There is a clear need for concrete political commitment to robust accountability measures that ensure that every stakeholder can hold national governments and international actors to account on their promises, including civil society and affected communities. Without this, it will be impossible to develop a comprehensive and forward-looking response to TB. The parliamentarians who are members of the Global TB Caucus will be also key to holding governments to account in the coming years, to ensure they deliver on the commitments made.
Members of the Global TB Caucus have always advocated for a comprehensive international response to the global threat of TB, and the GMC has demonstrated an important step toward this goal. However, the work is not yet done. Whilst the GMC has demonstrated a political and public appetite for change, it is the outcome of the HLM will be critical in preserving and developing the commitments made in Moscow. Over the coming year, it is critical that all those who work on TB ensure that they use the Moscow declaration in their advocacy, and look toward the UN HLM as an opportunity to ensure world leaders commit to ending this epidemic once and for all.