Final Plenary Session showcases TB solutions to collectively end TB

There is no one answer to ending tuberculosis (TB) – and the final Plenary Session today showcased some of the many new approaches and methods that, combined with the other new strategies and solutions presented this week, will be used to collectively progress the fight against TB.

Dr Madhukar Pai opened the session by calling for a quality revolution in TB care – most particularly in the private sector, which often serves as first point of contact for patients in high burden countries.

Highlighting the urgent need to improve the private sector in low and middle income countries, he said: “We sent people to clinics to simulate TB symptoms in the public sector. They reported all the common symptoms – short of saying ‘please test me for TB’, this person was giving every clue. And yet, virtually none of these patients were referred for TB testing.” 

But by providing the private sector with better tools to recognise and refer TB patients through the correct channels, Dr Pai’s research showed promising improvements in referrals and diagnosis.

Dr Quique Bassat shared the need for better data on cause of death to be able to accurately respond to public health crises. Over 50 percent of all deaths worldwide currently occur outside the health system, leaving the medical community with enormous gaps in knowledge.

His work on minimally invasive autopsies presented a new method that can analyse and gather accurate data in a culturally sensitive way that families are more willing to accept.

And Dr Catharina Boehme spoke to extending TB policy past best practice to something she called “wise practice”, which incorporates the local context and the national objectives and strategy.

“We have to accept that implementing best practices will not get us to where we need to be. What we need instead is effective, context driven strategies that are informed by community practices.”

Progress on all fronts – from diagnosis and access to care, to accurate data reporting and improved case-finding – is imperative to moving towards the ultimate goal of ending TB.

Dr Boehme spoke of the importance to remember how this work affects lives and livelihoods. Lives such as Enrique Delgado’s, who shared the story of his seven-year battle with TB that cost him thousands of dollars and took him across four countries in his search for adequate treatment – and ultimately his cure – for extensively drug-resistant TB. 

“We have to understand that we are a team – with the support of the government, policy makers, the World Health Organization, NGOs, national programmes, funding projects and civil society, together I know we can win.”

Delgado’s closing remarks were met with a standing ovation from the audience.

The Princess Chichibu Global Memorial TB Award was awarded during the plenary to Dr Armand Van Deun by the Japan Anti-Tuberculosis Association in recognition of his achievement in the field of global TB control.