Prevention is key to ending tuberculosis (TB). Yet it has been long neglected as a research and operational priority. Preventing lung disease is more urgent than ever as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is pushing health systems worldwide to breaking point.
That is why prevention will take centre stage at the 51st Union World Conference on Lung Health, 20-24 October 2020.
The conference theme, Advancing Prevention, draws on commitments made at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB in 2018, which promised to end the TB emergency by preventing hundreds of thousands of infections and deaths every year.
TB is the leading infectious cause of death worldwide. It killed a total of 1.5 million people in 2018, and 10 million people fell ill with the disease. It is important to remind ourselves of the global scale of this preventable disease.
But we must also reflect on the impact it has on individual lives. If we can prevent someone from getting TB, we are preventing that person from a long and complicated treatment regimen. We are preventing them from experiencing the unpleasant symptoms of TB, from encountering stigma, and from living with lasting lung damage.
As we learn more about the effect of COVID-19 on people with and at risk of TB, and we see the effect that COVID-19 is having on the TB response, it is imperative that TB prevention be made central to our approach to ending TB. This is the only way that we will achieve the bold but necessary targets outlined in the UN High Level Meeting.
I encourage anyone working in the field of TB or lung health to join us for an exciting scientific programme at the 51st Union World Conference on Lung Health. It will be a real opportunity to learn about the latest advances in TB care and prevention, discuss the latest science and come together virtually to continue to fight TB.
On the topic of cutting-edge science, the hugely popular TBScience event will return for its third year, and will be incorporated into the main conference programme. TBScience is entirely devoted to basic and translational TB research, and focusing on the development of better vaccines, new drugs and diagnostics for TB.
And while you wait impatiently for this year’s conference to begin, consider taking The Union’s free course ‘Prevent TB: Management of TB Infection’ – made possible with financial support from Sanofi.
This accredited course will guide you on the process of managing TB infection, and focuses on how public health systems can improve TB preventive care for people who have been exposed to TB bacteria, with an emphasis on children under five years old, people living with HIV and people who are household contacts of people with pulmonary TB.
I hope you can join us in October, at what promises to be our most accessible and innovative conference to date.
Dr Grania Brigden
Director of The Union’s TB Department