Inaugural Session opens the 47th Union World Conference

Inaugural Session opens the 47th Union World Conference

In the keynote speech at the Inaugural session Stephen Lewis, the co-founder and co-director of AIDS-Free world, gave a fiery and hard hitting speech, including a list of 10 actions needed to eliminate tuberculosis (TB) for good. He said:

“No more sweetness and light. Another year, another two million lives. There’s not a tenable reason on earth to lose those two million lives. TB is curable.”

The Union’s President, Dr E Jane Carter, echoed this sentiment saying:

“Since we gathered together last year in Cape Town, over 10 million new cases of TB have occurred and 1.8 million people have died…We know that drug resistance is one of our biggest barriers to success in the fight against TB but actually the biggest barrier we face is resistance to change.”

She quoted anthropologist Margaret Mead as a call to action to all delegates to confront resistance, saying:

‘“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”’

Her words were reinforced by Union Executive Director, José Luis Castro, as he spoke of the need to come together to meet the challenge of implementing the recent World Health Organzation recommendation for the nine-month regimen. He went on to launch the creation of a specialised Union MDR-TB programme.

“The Union’s new MDR-TB programme will provide all the support that countries need to implement the nine-month treatment, including technical assistance, clinical advice, training and education, and research.”

The personal testimony of TB survival from Liverpool born Cedric Moser who developed TB in his late 70s, Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan and Chairman of Liverpool Homeless Football Club, Gary Carney reminded those present that TB affects everybody. Amitabh Bachchan said:

“TB disproportionately affects the poor but it is also true that not only the poor suffer from tuberculosis. It can happen to anyone. If by saying I have had TB can help anybody, then I will say I am a TB survivor.”

The Union Medal is The Union’s highest honour and traditionally awarded to an individual who has made a significant commitment to TB control or lung health. This year, the recipient is the highly respected and tireless career-long advocate for TB patients, Dr Lee Reichman.

Presenting the award, Union President, Jane Carter said:

“Dr Reichman is perhaps most widely recognised for his accurate public prediction in 2001 that global failure to control basic tuberculosis disease would become a “timebomb” leading to the explosion of nearly untreatable multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. A prediction that is most fitting as we gather to consider how to confront resistance.”