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Ms President, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
On the 26th of September, the European Union and its Member States – for which I have the honour to speak today - welcomed the political declaration of the first ever High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis as a concise and action oriented document that calls for an accelerated response and renewed commitment.
We also congratulate the co-facilitators of Antigua and Barbuda and Japan for achieving consensus on the declaration.
Now we should concentrate all our efforts to address the actions proposed in the declaration and work on their implementation.
In the EU, we have countries with very low TB incidence, close to TB elimination, and countries with high TB incidence. Many countries also face additional challenges, including multi-drug resistance and particular vulnerabilities of people infected with HIV and hepatitis. Despite recent progress, especially in the EU, sustained efforts are needed if Europe as a region is to meet the 2030 targets and eradicate TB.
Tuberculosis continues to affect disproportionally the most vulnerable – the poor, the homeless, and the socially marginalised, including people infected with HIV. As such, health and social policies must work hand in hand and we must reach those most at risk.
Strengthening public health systems is paramount. We welcome the development of national and regional TB strategies addressing the challenges and capacities of each country, and acceleration of plans to achieve universal health coverage.
We recognise that multi-drug resistant TB is a global health threat. Resistance to antimicrobial therapies greatly increases the risk of deaths or serious complications and is associated with around 5,5 times higher treatment costs. We must urgently tackle antimicrobial resistance through a one-health approach in human and animal health, ensuring the prudent use of antibiotics.
Investment in research is critical. This involves developing effective and affordable medicines, including those addressing drug-resistant forms of TB and child-friendly formulas. We also need new rapid diagnostic tools. Crucially, we must invest more in new prevention tools like vaccines and in applied research to scale up existing and new tools for maximum impact. The EU contribution to research through our current research programme so far amounts to 150 million euros. We will continue to invest in this area and will ensure that new tools for Tuberculosis are rapidly made accessible to all.
The European Union is at the forefront of the fight against TB in partner countries. The EU and its Member States are the largest contributors to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The support of the Global Fund to TB has led to impressive results. During 2017, in countries where the Global Fund invests, 5 million people with TB were treated and 102 000 people with drug-resistant TB were on treatment. Consequently, we commit to supporting a successful replenishment of the Global Fund in 2019.
Tuberculosis can affect everyone – but every country's capacity to respond might vary. We must approach this epidemic from all angles – funding, research, prevention, treatment and education. We need to increase solidarity with the vulnerable amongst us. To this regard, the EU is contributing with almost 2 million euros in the early detection and integrated management of tuberculosis in Europe for irregular residents and people who inject drugs. The EU will continue to support action to address tuberculosis at home, in the European neighbourhood, and globally, using the financial, technical, and political instruments available to it.