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Seize the moment, invest in lung health programmes: Bill Clinton

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on October 20, 2020 Published on October 20, 2020

“Testing for Covid-19 can be an opportunity to test for TB and start treatment”

The world needs to “seize this moment” and make investments in sustainable comprehensive lung health programmes, said former US Bill Clinton, speaking at the inaugural session of the 51st Union World Conference on Lung Health.

The investments should not be just to get the pandemic under control, but also to eliminate Covid-19 and tuberculosis (TB), while improving treatment for all other pulmonary illnesses, he said. Among other things, testing for Covid-19 can be an opportunity to test for TB and start treatment, he said.

“We cannot afford to make this setback permanent,” he said, pointing to the disruptions that Covid-19 has had on other health programmes including TB. “The crisis gives us a chance to re-imagine how our future will look like,” he said, adding that the world cannot revert to status quo where public health responses were in silos.

‘TB here to stay’

Coming against the backdrop of the pandemic, the conference focusses on the links between TB, lung health and Covid-19. World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned that the pandemic will go, but TB, tobacco and air pollution would continue.

“We cannot use the pandemic as an excuse for failing to deliver on our commitment to end TB,” he said. The microbe attacks the lungs, but its impact is far-reaching, he said. Referring to the recent World TB report’s findings that notifications from high-burden countries (including India) had dropped by about 25 per cent, he said, this is estimated to cause about four lakh TB deaths globally, this year alone.

The conference also saw a “charter of demands” submitted through a video by the international civil society. In fact, Indian TB activists and survivors have been raising concerns faced by TB patients due to Covid-19 and the need to scale up oral drugs.

The Conference is convened by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, the world’s first global health NGO, which is also celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Delegates from 135 countries, including over 450 survivors of TB and other lung diseases, are attending the conference, originally set to take place in Seville, Spain, said a note from the convenors.

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Published on October 20, 2020
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