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Dr. Tereza Kasaeva, Head of the WHO Global Tuberculosis Program, delivered the WHO World TB Day message

As we gather to remember World Tuberculosis Day, we show our support for the millions of individuals who contract tuberculosis every year and pay respect to the millions who have died from this treatable and avoidable illness. We would like to thank all the health professionals leading the charge in the fight to eradicate tuberculosis and other diseases, as well as national tuberculosis programs, partners, donors, and members of civil society and advocacy groups.

One of the worst infectious diseases in the world today is tuberculosis. Around 4400 people every day die from tuberculosis, and 30,000 more contract this avoidable and treatable illness. Although it is believed that efforts to battle tuberculosis have prevented 74 million deaths since 2000, the COVID-19 pandemic, together with other crises, violence, and social injustices, has undone years of advancement in the attempt to eradicate tuberculosis. The burden on those affected, especially the most vulnerable, has increased as a result. The WHO announced that estimated tuberculosis incidence and fatalities have increased for the first time in more than ten years. Investments and actions are still far short of what is required to put an end to the tuberculosis epidemic.

Although there are numerous high-level chances to boost visibility, increase political commitment, and enhance investments for the tuberculosis response, 2023 is a crucial year for moving the agenda toward eradicating tuberculosis ahead. In order to combat the tuberculosis epidemic, World Tuberculosis Day 2023 will focus on the message “Yes! We can end tuberculosis!” This theme aims to instill hope and encourage high-level leadership, increased funding, quicker adoption of new WHO recommendations, adoption of innovations, accelerated action, and multisectoral collaboration.
WHO is urging action on a number of fronts on World Tuberculosis Day to ensure that the pledges made to eliminate tuberculosis are fulfilled:

  1. We would like to demand strong advocacy and leadership. The UN High Level Conference on Tuberculosis at the General Assembly in September 2023 will mark the second time that heads of state will gather to discuss stepping up efforts to eliminate TB. The fact that TB is a top priority for heads of state and other world leaders serves as a powerful motivation to accelerate the fight against this chronic illness. At the same time, two additional high-level UN meetings will be convened with a focus on pandemic preparedness and universal health coverage.
  2. The UHC, pandemic planning and response, and ending tuberculosis all have definite connections. We encourage civil society involvement and participation at the highest levels in the UN High Level Meetings. This week, the Director-General of WHO unveiled the enlarged duration and objectives of his Flagship Program for the years 2023–2027. On the way to achieving universal health coverage, the initiative’s new aims will bring together nations and partners to step up efforts to ensure that everyone has access to TB prevention, care, and the most advanced tools and technologies.
  3. In order to bridge crucial financing gaps and ensure that everyone has access to TB care for research, we are urging an urgent increase in domestic and foreign investments. Millions more lives will be saved through increased funding for the implementation of WHO-recommended TB preventative treatment alternatives, shorter TB treatment schedules, quick molecular diagnostics and testing for TB infection, and other innovations and digital tools. Moreover, it is essential to make investments in research and innovation to advance efforts to meet the final TB targets. In particular, WHO is advancing research on novel TB vaccines by drawing on the lessons learnt from the COVID pandemic and associated platforms. The WHO Director-General announced a new TB Vaccine Accelerator Council in January of this year to help with licensing and use of potent novel tuberculosis vaccines and to catalyze strategic alignment between funders, international organizations, governments, and end users in identifying and removing obstacles to vaccine development.
  4. We are urging governments and other stakeholders to speed up the implementation of the most recent WHO recommendations and the release of innovative tools to help people with TB. On World TB Day, WHO and its partners issued a call to action, urging Member States to quicken the implementation of the new, shorter, all-oral WHO treatment regimens for drug-resistant TB.
  5. To achieve Health for Everyone, we are emphasizing how crucial it is to address health inequalities. Individuals who have TB are among the most vulnerable and disenfranchised; they face obstacles to receiving care as well as stigma and prejudice. To alleviate health disparities for persons with TB and other diseases, WHO is urging international cooperation.
  6. To address the main causes of the TB epidemic, all sectors must work together in concert to stop TB. People’s ability to get sick, acquire TB, and deal with the demands of treatment (including medical, financial, and social expectations) as well as the health consequences they experience are all impacted by poverty, undernourishment, poor living and working conditions, among other factors. Hence, the health system cannot advance in the fight against TB and its causes on its own. Thus, WHO is urging strong multisectoral collaboration (apart from health), strong political commitment at the highest level, and an efficient system of accountability.

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