Roundtable meeting on tuberculosis on the occasion of World TB Day 2016

On 17 March 2016, a roundtable meeting on tuberculosis (TB), one of the top killer communicable diseases globally and in Europe, took place in Brussels, Belgium on World TB Day. It was jointly organized by WHO/Europe, the Office of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General's Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to the European Union (EU).

The event, hosted by the Permanent Representation, was organized in coordination with the Slovakian Health Attaché. The Netherlands currently holds the rotational presidency of the Council of the EU, which will be followed, as of July, by Slovakia.

The aim of the event was to:

  • inform political decision-makers and Member State representatives about TB in the WHO European Region, with a focus on EU/European Economic Area countries;
  • provide a platform for discussion on the implications of TB and HIV/AIDS on health at individual and society levels;
  • foster exchange of experiences and perspectives on achievements and challenges in implementing TB prevention and care activities in the Region; and
  • discuss possible next steps to be taken to more efficiently combat TB and HIV/AIDS.

A panel conveyed the necessity for new, more effective and accessible tools for TB diagnosis and care and for a paediatric formulation for TB, as appropriate treatment for children affected by TB is still a challenge. In addition, the panel addressed the need for increasing the awareness of governments on the fact that especially eastern European countries still rely on external donor support to deal with both TB and HIV, and that both TB and HIV do not respect borders. Therefore, their prevention, treatment and care require a bold and concerted approach from all players, with tangible and clear commitment in a strong partnership approach.

The panel comprised:

  • Professor Michel Kazatchkine, UN Secretary General's Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia;
  • Dr Masoud Dara, Senior Advisor, WHO Office at the EU;
  • Ms Fanny Voitzwinkler, Head of the EU Office at the Global Health Advocates;
  • Ms Marianne Vaes, Dutch representative of the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to the EU; and
  • Ms Ilke van Engelen, a TB survivor.

TB in the Region

An estimated 340 000 incident (new) cases of TB occurred in the Region in 2014, which is equivalent to 37 cases per 100 000 population. While the Region has less than 4% of the total global burden of TB, it carries approximately 25% of the world's burden of multidrug-resistant TB. Lack of access to rapid treatment with appropriate high-quality drugs leads to unsatisfactory outcomes, including chronicity and the development of drug-resistant TB: drug-resistant TB is more difficult and costly to treat than so-called drug-susceptible TB.

Member States have achieved much in TB prevention and care since 2011 by implementing the consolidated action plan to prevent and combat multidrug- and extensively drug-resistant (M/XDR-) TB. More than 1 million TB patients have been cured, including 53 000 with MDR-TB. Key challenges remain, however, particularly in relation to ongoing transmission, increasing resistance of strains, and deadly TB and HIV co-infections.