Stop TB Partnership

End-of-year message from Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership


Dear friends, colleagues, partners,

Allow me to start by thanking all of you for your work, commitment and professionalism during this year.

2011 was not an easy year but we all worked hard, we did our best (or what we thought was our best) and tried to deliver for the sake of the millions of people suffering because of TB. Thank you all, it is a pleasure to know you and an honour to work together!

Usually the closing of the year is a good moment for reflection on what happened in 2011 and on what lies ahead. I think we all know and can remember our achievements in 2011, and so I would like to look ahead. And I wish to say to you honestly: 2012 will not be easy. It will be challenging, annoying, with less money and more demands; yet hopefully more focus.

The 2011 developments - the serious financing constraints, the conversion of the expected Global Fund Round 11 into a Transitional Funding Mechanism, the multiple agendas that countries have to fulfil in health with less funding - all these will surely have an impact on our ability to make progress in the global fight against TB.

2012 is a critical year. We have just three years to meet the MDG targets and those of the Global Plan to Stop TB. Are we ready to advance and meet the challenges we face?

I think we can do it, but we need to change.

And so I wish to suggest we all make five New Years' resolutions.

First, we need a change in tone. We need to shake things up. We need to put the people suffering because of TB at the centre of all our work and give it a greater feeling of urgency. We need to voice our outrage that a million and a half people are still dying every year of a curable disease, that there are 10 million children in the world orphaned by TB, that we have hundreds of thousands of people with MDR-TB without proper diagnosis and treatment. We will have to fight for more money and fight hard, because we have a righteous cause.

Second, we need to be more ambitious. If you speak to a cardiovascular surgeon, he might say that he has had five deaths in his ward this year, but next year, he aims for zero. Why then, in TB - where the drugs to treat someone cost only US$ 25 dollars - are we talking about reducing deaths by such a modest amount in 2012? We need to be more ambitious in fundraising - being bold accountable and showing the results to the donors - but also showing to the stakeholders in countries the need for domestic investments in TB.

Third, we need to find the people with TB, TB/HIV and MDR-TB we have never succeeded in finding. We've been doing a really good job getting TB treatment to the kind of people who know where to go if they are sick, the sort of people who come to hospitals and clinics. But so many of the people with TB are poor and come from vulnerable groups. Their illness goes undetected, unreported and often untreated. They are shy, sick, scared, lonely, feel ashamed, worried and stigmatized, and most don't know how to fight for themselves or their rights. We have to fight for and with them - and we have to empower them to fight for themselves by working with civil society and communities.

Fourth, we need to be wise, smart and rapid and do more with less. Value for money is not just a slogan, it is a reality and it is working! We will have fewer resources in 2012. But that does not necessarily have to impair progress if we use what we have more effectively. Every country has to take a close look at what is going well, and what is not being done the way it should. Then they need to reorient the way they approach their TB epidemic so they can have the biggest impact on saving lives and preventing transmission.

Fifth, we must resolve to shake up the research community and donors to bring TB care into the 21st century. Where is a simple, inexpensive test for TB, like we have for HIV and malaria? Where is a form of treatment that takes less than four months? Where are the new drugs for MDR-TB? Where is our vaccine? Investment in TB research is not increasing - in fact it has flattened. I hate flat lines - let us have an upturn by the end of 2012!

Five resolutions: you can count them on one hand. Outrage, ambition, reaching the unreached, doing more with less, demanding new tools. I urge us all to commit to them.

While we embark on our shared work, we will need all the passion, heart, love and strength we possess, and so I hope you all will have an opportunity to recharge during the coming holiday season and find support among your loved ones.

2012 will not be easy, but the beauty of life is to try and rise up to challenges.

Let us together make 2012 a reference year in TB!

With all my best wishes,

Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary, Stop TB Partnership