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AIDS 2018 closes with call to action on TB and integrated care

August 08, 2018

In a special session at the close of the 22nd International AIDS Conference, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and other high-level speakers called for urgent action to better integrate the responses to tuberculosis (TB) and HIV.

President Clinton called on the audience to remember that TB is the largest killer of people with HIV and urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other heads of state to demonstrate global commitments to more ambitious, people-centered responses in two months at the first-ever United Nations High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) on TB in New York on September 26. This call to action built on a key theme that echoed across the week-long meeting: the world cannot reach the end of the epidemics of HIV/AIDS or TB without making more progress toward an effective joint response and ambitious, integrated, people-centered care overall.

“We need to learn to treat TB as more than just a bacterium. We need to consider all the ways that it impacts families and communities and make sure we not only have the funding for testing, treatment, and care, but that we’re taking down the barriers that keep people from accessing it,” said Carol Nawina Kachenga, executive director of ACTION’s Zambian partner, the Community Initiative for TB, HIV/AIDS, Malaria Plus Related Diseases (CITAMplus), who gave remarks following President Clinton in the special session Seizing the moment for TB: Current challenges in TB care and in TB and HIV integration.

Greater integration of the HIV and TB responses can start with putting WHO-recommended TB-HIV collaborative activities into practice. However, researchers, communities affected by the epidemics, and policymakers in Amsterdam pushed the message that a holistic response should not end there. According to advocates at the conference, integrated approaches should advance people-centered care, more effective health delivery systems, and the achievement of universal health coverage (UHC).

Peter Sands, executive director of the to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund), spoke about the importance of aggressively ramping up the global response to TB, and he also emphasized the need to prioritize integration at this new stage of the fight against the three diseases. The Global Fund will seek new resources in a 2019 replenishment campaign to fund work that advances this agenda of integration — with work toward ending the epidemics as the leading edge of this effort. The government of France has committed to host the Global Fund replenishment conference in 2019, and there is already a strong case from partners across the world for increased ambitious pledges from traditional and emerging donors and philanthropists, along with momentum for significant investments by low- and middle-income countries facing high burdens of AIDS, TB, and/or malaria.

It is unconscionable that every year, health systems are missing over forty percent of the estimated ten and a half million people who get sick with TB,” said Joanne Carter, executive director of ACTION’s U.S. partner, RESULTS. “Achieving universal access to quality TB diagnosis, treatment, and prevention — and ending the TB epidemic — will require increased investment and a focused and aggressive effort to reach hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations.”

If leaders heed the call to action issued in Amsterdam, they will arrive in New York for the September UNHLM on TB ready to provide concrete and bold plans — and resources to match — to achieve effective, people-centered, and integrated TB programs as priority for health care delivery and UHC.

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