Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister addresses the WHO Global Tuberculosis Programme on ‘Global Drive to Scale up TB Prevention’

Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare today participated in a virtual high-level event on ‘Global Drive to Scale up TB Prevention’ organized by WHO Global Tuberculosis Programme, here today through video conference.

The purpose of this special high-level event was to discuss key actions needed at the global and country-level to scale up TB prevention strategies and drive progress towards achieving the 2022 UN High-Level Meeting target on TB preventive treatment.

Addressing the ministerial roundtable on country commitments to enhance TB prevention, Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “Scaling up TB preventive treatment is of utmost importance to break the chain of transmission and prevent the breakdown of those with TB infection into full-blown active TB disease. India is embarking on a new TB preventive treatment to combat and end TB by 2025.”

Affirming India’s commitments, the Union Health Minister said that India is aggressively implementing its fully-funded National Strategic Plan to End TB. Phenomenal work has been done in last few years by treating 50 million people. India also stands committed to rapidly achieve national scale-up of TB preventive treatment (TPT) and activities to achieve the UN High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) targets of 40 million persons started on TB treatment and 30 million on TPT globally in the remaining 18 months.

 

He pointed out that expanding access to accurate TB screening and diagnostic tools like NAAT, digital X-ray with Artificial Intelligence aided detection, high quality drugs, digital technologies multi-sectoral community engagements, integrating TB services across all levels of our health system are all aligned to rapidly push down the TB incidence and mortality curve in the country. “Under the able leadership of our Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, India has demonstrated unprecedented political commitment to End TB by 2025, five years ahead of the SDG target of 2030,” he stated in this regard.

He also spoke on the sub-national Certification of States and Districts instituted in 2020. The initiative marks districts/States-UTs on “Progress towards TB Free Status” under different categories measured with graded milestones of decline in TB incidence. “I am proud to announce in this Forum that the Union Territory of Lakshadweep and the District of Budgam in Jammu & Kashmir have been certified as the 1st TB Free Union Territory and 1st TB Free District in the country in 2020,” he added.

Appreciating global efforts towards the fight against COVID-19, Dr Harsh Vardhan appealed the global community to unite in a similar way towards eradicating TB. He said, “To End TB, we need to accelerate the development of new vaccines, drugs etc. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that if the world unites, it is possible to develop vaccines in less than a year. We need significant advances and a similar approach for TB”. He called upon the global community to strengthen adequate funding so that countries like India can scale up TB preventive treatment by 2022, devise TB Vaccine by 2023 and reach the goal of “End TB in India” by 2025 and globally by 2030.

 

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Tereza Kasaeva, Director, WHO Global TB Programme and Ariel Pablos Mendes, Chair, Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Tuberculosis (STAG-TB) were present at the event along with high-level leaders from countries including India, Brazil, Nigeria, Russia, Philippines, Pakistan and Indonesia.

TB survivors, event partners and donors were also present. The virtual consultations allowed participants to review the progress made so far amidst the Covid-19 pandemic in high TB burden countries, identify urgent actions required to fast-track progress and set the member states on a path to meet the UNHLM commitments.

The event witnessed the launch of a multi-agency ‘call to action’ to overcome the barriers to scale up TB prevention and TB case finding. Leaders also issued a statement on investments needed to accelerate implementation and achieve the UNHLM targets for TB prevention.