Moscow: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Global Coalition Against TB (GCAT), an Indian policymaker’s forum, co-hosted a meeting for high burden countries (HBCs), at the sidelines of the first ‘WHO Global Ministerial Conference on Ending TB’ in Moscow on Friday. The meeting titled ‘Ending TB by 2035: Our Promise to Our People’ was attended by Mr. Jagat Prakash Nadda, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Government of India; health ministers from seven countries; Members of Parliament from India; the WHO Representative to India, Dr. Henk Bekedam; government officials from over 10 countries; and technical experts from various multi-lateral development agencies.

Mr. Nadda reiterated that eliminating TB is a top priority for the Government of India. He mentioned that the government is undertaking an active case-finding exercise and is engaging the private sector to reach the unreached. He further added that social protection schemes will be introduced under the new National Strategic Plan, which will help patients adhere to and complete treatment, while providing them access to nutrition.

The meeting served as a platform for elected representatives, Health Ministry officials and National TB Program managers of India and other HBCs, to share country experiences and foster inter-country cooperation on monitoring progress toward implementing the Moscow Declaration. The meeting was attended by delegates from Indonesia, Vietnam, Maldives, Cambodia, Brazil, Iran, Israel, and Kenya among other countries. The meeting was held on the backdrop of the WHO’s recently released Global TB Report 2017, according to which 1.3 million people died due to TB in 2016 (including those co-infected with HIV) which was lower than the previous year. India has been lauded globally for its efforts towards TB elimination. The recently released report shows a decline in TB incidence as well as mortality.

 “We at GCAT are glad that we could co-host this landmark meeting with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare at the sidelines of such an important event. I hope this will lead to the creation of a platform for all countries to share best practices and experiences that emerge from their endeavours to eliminate TB. Since its inception, the GCAT has been working with the ministry to ensure that recommendations of all important stakeholders are taken into account while formulating policies for TB control in India,” said Mr. Dalbir Singh, President, GCAT.

The side-meeting was organized to discuss issues and challenges that HBCs face in controlling and eliminating TB such as ensuring universal access to TB care, research and development to develop new vaccines, better diagnostics and shorter drug regimens, mechanisms to improve domestic funding for TB elimination and importantly in the context of this meeting, the role of elected representatives across the world in ending TB. The Indian delegation showcased the achievements of India’s TB program in providing universal access to care and the soon-to-be-released National Strategic Plan for TB Elimination.

 “It is heartening to see this united front to tackle TB and we must recognize that all countries are allies in this fight to end the disease. The recently released Global TB Report is in fact a reflection of the tremendous progress we have collectively made. The Government of India, through the National Strategic Plan aims to eliminate the disease by 2025 and we are confident of achieving our goals through a concerted effort by all stakeholders,” said Dr. Sanjay Jaiswal, Member of Parliament, Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Global Coalition Against TB or GCAT as it is known, is a first of its kind policymaker’s interest group on TB was established in 2012 as an umbrella organization to bring together dedicated political leaders, policymakers, and technical experts to engender change, support the government in augmenting its strategy and work toward policies and initiatives that have a lasting impact on TB elimination efforts in the country.

The GCAT has held consultations on TB with the highest leadership of the country including the former President of India and has contributed to promoting much needed international cooperation and exchange of knowledge as well. The coalition’s activities have helped unite diverse stakeholders on a common platform with a common goal- to end TB in India.

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