The 51st Annual Union Conference on Lung Health took place from 20-24 October 2020. Due to COVID-19 the Conference this year was held virtually, and survivors of lung diseases, including TB and COVID-19 were invited to attend for free.

The welcome ceremony for the conference included a series of great speakers, including WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Her Imperial Highness Crown Princess Akishino of Japan, and the 42nd U.S. President, Bill Clinton.

You can watch the welcome ceremony here.

Conference Highlights

Other highlights from the conference include a speech from Dr Anthony Fauci on COVID-19 vaccine development as well as positive clinical trial results for a shorter regimen for the treatment of DS-TB.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and member of the US White House Coronavirus Task Force, presented in the Special Session Sars-CoV2: The hope for a vaccine on Wednesday 21st October.

Fauci gave a thought-provoking speech on the public health and scientific challenges of COVID-19. He discussed the US and European epidemiological trends and the impact of restriction measures, and he provided an overview of the virus, including ongoing clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine.  To find out more about NIAID’s work on COVID-19 and vaccine trials click here.

Watch the session on Sars-CoV2: The hope for a vaccine here.

Results of a phase III clinical trial for a safe and effective 4-month DS-TB treatment regimen were also presented at the conference. The trial known as study 31/A5349, was led by the U.S. CDC Tuberculosis Trials Consortium (TBTC) in collaboration with the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG), and funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The results showed non-inferiority of the 4-month high-dose rifapentine with moxifloxacin treatment regimen when compared to the currently recommended six-month regimen. You can read about the clinical trial results on TAG’s website results here and a WHO summary of the results.

TBEC Sessions

TBEC held a session during the conference symposium on Understanding the impact of participatory approaches in developing sustainable TB policies. This session brought together speakers from different parts of Europe who advocate for a stronger role of CSOs in public health policies and service provision for people affected by or at risk of TB.

The session was chaired by TBEC Board co-Chair, Jonathan Stillo and Executive Director, Yuliia Kalancha, and showcased some of the best practices of CSO engagement within the WHO/Europe Region.

Paul Sommerfeld, Chair of TBEC Board, made a succinct analysis of the common strengths and barriers of CSOs engagement in public policies across the region, especially in EECA countries, where the governments are more reluctant to allow civil society and affected populations to be equal partners in designing an equitable environment for people affected by or at risk of TB.

Mariya Makovetska, TBEC member, Cristina Enache, TBEC Board member, Parvana Valiyeva, Executive Director of Saglamliga Khidmat Public Union, and Yuliia Kalancha, all discussed examples of collaboration between civil society and the government in improving people-centered care for TB patients, providing ambulatory social and nutritional support, and ensuring continuous and adequate treatment for all TB patients. Yuliya Chorna, former TBEC Executive Director, also reflected on the collaboration between the WHO and the civil society in the region.

Over 50 participants attended the symposium and the speakers were able to elaborate on some aspects such as the impact of COVID-19 on ambulatory care for TB patients, the difficulty of engaging affected populations in advocacy and the hard times the CSOs will face in countries where international donors such as the Global Fund will withdraw their support. We would like to thank everyone involved in this session for all their hard work.

You can watch a recording of the session on the Union website or on YouTube.

Community Connect

At TBEC’s Community Connect session on The Role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in the social package of care for sustainable people-centred TB services speakers from the EECA region spoke about two developments that are likely to be real game-changers for civil society engagement in the provision of TB care.

Yuliia Kalancha, TBEC Executive Director discussed TBEC’s work on developing standardised packages of care in the region. We hope they will make it easier for government services to know what to expect from CSO involvement, and for contracts to be entered into between government and CSOs that will mean sustainable funding. More to come on this later in the year.

While it was one of the last events of the conference, we still managed to gain a significant audience of around 50 participants which led to a lively discussion!

TBEC Board members, Oxana Rucsineanu (Moldova) and Safar Naimov (Tajikistan) who are both founders and CEOs of effective organisations led by TB survivors, spoke on their report on psychosocial support for individuals under treatment for TB. This report was prepared for and recently published by WHO Europe with a view to stimulating greater seriousness in the provision by national programmes of psychological and social care for people affected by TB. Both CSOs and frontline health staff can do so much in provision of such care if NTPs prioritise it just a little bit more. You can access the report here. 

You can watch a recording of the session here

Please be aware some recordings will only be available until Nov. 30th