British University and Medical Leaders Call on PM to attend UN TB Meeting

Today, UK Academics and Professionals to End Tuberculosis sent a letter to the Prime Minister, which calls on her to attend the first ever United Nations High Level Meeting on Tuberculosis, in New York next month.

The letter was signed by over 130 TB academics and professionals, and also leaders of several prominent universities and organisations, including Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, University of Liverpool, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London, University of St Andrews, St George’s University of London, University of Oxford, British Thoracic Society, British HIV Association, British Infection Association, and TB Alert.

The letter highlights that the global response to tuberculosis – the world’s deadliest infectious disease – is woefully inadequate and also emphasises that, as a world leader in combatting infectious diseases, the UK’s contribution to this once-in-a-generation opportunity for international collaboration to end tuberculosis is vital.  This current call builds on an initial letter sent to the government by leading specialists in March and a parliamentary debate in June.

The signatories believe that, with the Prime Minister’s attendance at the UN HLM on 26 September 2018, the unacceptable global injustice of TB will be addressed so that, at last, this terrible disease can be beaten.

The text of the letter is below.  A PDF version, including the full list of over 130 signatories, is available here.  (Post-script: a response to our letter was sent by the Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, Minister of State at DFID, on 25th August.  You can read the Minister’s letter here.)

Dear Prime Minister,

Tuberculosis is the world’s deadliest infectious disease. This preventable and curable disease affects over 10 million people a year and kills 1.7 million – more than HIV and malaria combined. Despite the 2015 Sustainable Development Goal to end tuberculosis (TB) by 2030, current global efforts to combat TB remain woefully inadequate. Indeed, at the current rate of progress, this target will not be met for more than a century and the numbers of antibiotic-resistant TB cases will continue to rise. But the cost of TB is not only human, it is also economic. It is estimated that the global TB pandemic will result in USD$1 trillion of lost economic output by 2030.

In response to this international public health crisis, the first ever United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) High-Level Meeting (HLM) devoted solely to TB will take place in New York on 26 September 2018. On behalf of academics and professionals leading the UK’s contribution to ending TB, we are writing to ask you personally to lead the UK delegation to this critical meeting of heads of state and heads of government.

The UK is a world leader in combatting infectious diseases like TB. We are at the forefront of the international Antimicrobial Resistance agenda and have provided over £1 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and TB for 2016-2019, making us the world’s second largest donor. Moreover, as a proportion of its total research investment, the UK invests more in TB research than any other country in the world.

UK Academics and Professionals to End TB (www.ukaptb.org) was formed in 2017 to represent the strength and breadth of impactful, pioneering TB research in our universities and academic institutions. Our areas of expertise include applied health research, vaccine development, novel medical technologies, social and economic support interventions, and innovations in TB prevention and treatment. Our immediate aim is to contribute to the dialogue at the UN HLM, especially in relation to the vital role that research has and will have in the efforts to end TB. We are making good progress towards achieving this aim; several members of our collaboration actively participated in the interactive civil society hearing at UN Headquarters on 4 June 2018.

In our view, the UN HLM is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver an ambitious political declaration that will strengthen action and investments to combat TB and also promote global development. On 7 June 2018, this opportunity was highlighted during the first debate on TB in the House of Commons for more than 60 years, which was led by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB. Consistent with the vision of a Global Britain, we urge you to support, engage with, and attend the UN HLM in person alongside other world leaders.

The UK must build on its considerable and recognised investments in TB control, care, and research in order to: demand and demonstrate decisive and accountable leadership; close the gaps in TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment; transform the TB response to be equitable, rights-based and people-centred; and accelerate the development of essential new tools to end TB.

With your attendance at the HLM, we hope that the unacceptable global injustice of TB will be addressed so that, at last, this terrible disease can be beaten.

Let’s unite to end TB.

Sincerely,

Professor Michael Arthur, President and Provost, University College London
Professor Dame Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool
Professor David Crossman, Head of School of Medicine and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of St Andrews
Dr Lisa Davies, Chair, Board of Trustees, British Thoracic Society
Professor Mark Fisher, Dean of Research, St. George’s, University of London
Professor Janet Hemingway, Director, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
Mr Mike Mandelbaum, Chief Executive, TB Alert
Dr Albert Mifsud, President, British Infection Association
Professor Chloe Orkin, Chair, British HIV Association
Professor Baron Peter Piot, Director, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Professor Ian Walmsley, Pro Vice-Chancellor, (Research and Innovation), University of Oxford

CC:
The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
The Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, Secretary of State for International Development
The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
The Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister of State at the Department for International Development
Harriet Baldwin MP, Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister of State at the Department for International Development

Downloadable/printable version with full list of signatories

Response from The Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, Minister of State, DFID

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