Following today’s Ministerial Meeting on TB and MDR-TB in Riga, civil society organisations made the following statement:

Meeting Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentleman, colleagues and friends. On behalf of the TB Europe Coalition, a regional network of civil society organisations, community representatives and advocates who all wish to see an end to suffering and deaths from TB in our region, we would like to wholeheartedly congratulate and commend the Latvian government for showing true regional leadership and for hosting this hugely important Ministerial conference.

Today, we are at a critical juncture in the fight against TB, MDR-TB and HIV. Political commitment at the local, national, regional and international level is urgently needed if we are to successfully tackle these epidemics in our region. With a concerted and coordinated effort from the governments of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, EU member states, the European Institutions, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, civil society, communities and technical partners, the battle against these epidemics can be won. And, yet, in many cases, real political commitment has been lacking. If we continue on the path of ͞business as usual͟, we will face a catastrophic increase in both number of AIDS cases and further spread of drug resistant TB.

Just last week, we heard from the Independent Review on Anti-Microbial Resistance, launched by David Cameron. This predicts that if we do not make concrete political advances against drug-resistant TB today, by 2050, 75 million people could be losing their lives to drug-resistant TB at a cost of €15.6 trillion to the global economy – the equivalent of the entire annual economic output of the EU.

Now more than ever it is time to take ownership. It is time for you to show that there is true political commitment, across Europe, in tackling TB. In the coming years, far less international support will be available from external sources to help us get rid of TB. Even with the current financial support, we are still faced with funding gaps. So we need to be prepared. Together we must develop sustainability roadmaps to address the decrease in international donor funding to the region. Only a concerted effort from multiple partners at the country level can ensure an effective and sustainable transition to domestic funding. It is critical that this opportunity is expressly seized by political leaders and donors.

We need increased financial support for TB R&D and new and innovative research models if we are to reach elimination. We need to secure the access of patients to treatment by challenging high costs for diagnostics and drugs. We need to back up health-workers fighting the disease every single day, risking their own well-being. We need to do things differently.

It is only by working together that we can turn the tide against TB. The involvement of civil society and communities is key: our region is still very much looking at TB only from a scientific, technical and medical perspective. This is just not going to cut it if we want to address the spread of drug resistance. As we heard today and yesterday TB cannot only be seen as a health matter, TB is a multisectoral problem. The social, economic and political aspects of TB are all equally important. We need new approaches and new investments.

As civil society we are here to help address the social dimension of TB. We are the link, we are the bridge between the medical and the political response to TB. We, civil society organisations and community representatives, former patients, advocates, activists and individuals, are here to help. We have a reason to fight. We know our communities, we know what the realities are on the ground. We are allies and only together, in partnership we will succeed.

Today, we are immensely disappointed that the new EU Health Commissioner Mr Vytenis Andriukaitis did not honour us with his presence. This sends a weak signal of regional leadership in the fight against TB. We would like to congratulate the Ministers and Deputy Ministers who are here in Riga today and would like to offer you our support in defeating the epidemic.

Civil society would like to call on those countries hardest hit by TB, MDR-TB and HIV in the region to:

  • reform health and financing systems to allow for smooth transition to patientcentered TB care with special consideration for affected communities;
  • urgently develop clear plans for sustainable TB and HIV financing and scale up beyond current donor funding continue engagement with civil society and affected communities to ensure sustainability and accountability of programmes.

We call on EU institutions and EU Member states to drive the regional political response to both epidemics by developing a political plan of action on TB and HIV together with neighbouring countries and prioritise TB and HIV in their political dialogue with the most affected countries of the region.

We call on The Global Fund to ensure sufficient support for countries undergoing the transition process and to continue to support civil society organisations working with affected communities and vulnerable groups, regardless of the transition process.

And finally we would like to call on all of you, and Mr Piebalgs, chairman of the conference to reflect these recommendations in the Riga Political Declaration.

Thank you all very much for your attention.


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