The Union Calls on UN Member States to Implement New Child and Adolescent TB Roadmap

Monday 24 September – In advance of the first-ever United Nations High Level Meeting on Tuberculosis, 11 leading health agencies and organisations from around the world launched the Roadmap Towards Ending TB in Children and Adolescents. The Roadmap is an essential document every country can use to lead a stronger response to child and adolescent TB.

The Union issued the following statement in response:

“The widespread neglect of children and adolescents with TB must end. Children make up a disproportionate number of TB deaths. No one has developed an effective diagnostic test for children with TB. They’re routinely excluded from research. By any measure, this is a human rights scandal. Young people have the same right to health as adults, and that right is enshrined in numerous legally binding agreements,” said Paul Jensen, Director of Policy and Strategy for the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.

“Meanwhile, there are 1.8 billion people alive today between the ages of 10 and 19, 90 percent of whom live in low- and middle-income countries where TB is a serious challenge. Yet the impact of TB on adolescents is still overlooked. There are few data to show how TB is impacting this age group. Adolescents gather in schools and other social settings where TB can spread. Yet few countries have strategies for preventing and treating TB among this age group.

“One of the key solutions is simple. When an adult is diagnosed with TB, health workers should determine whether there are children and adolescents in the home and make sure they’re screened for TB and provided either TB treatment or preventive therapy as appropriate. New WHO data released last week show that worldwide only 23 percent of eligible children under five are receiving TB preventive therapy. And we have no idea how many children and adolescents over five receive preventive therapy, though the data suggest it’s very few. Countries have to do a far better job at preventing TB in children and adolescents, and this roadmap points the way.

“This week during the UN General Assembly, we’re going to see virtually every country come together and endorse new commitments to preventing, treating and caring for children with TB. Those commitments include specific targets to treat a cumulative 3.5 million children and provide 4 million children TB preventive therapy by 2022. The real test will be what happens after these world leaders return to their countries. The TB community will be closely monitoring their actions and expect full accountability for progress toward their commitments,” Jensen said.

Approaches like DETECT Child TB provide a model that countries can examine, learn from and adapt to their local environments. Where the approach has been implemented in Uganda, coverage of TB preventive therapy increased from five percent to more than 70 percent in just three years, and diagnoses of active TB disease among children also increased significantly.

The Roadmap is endorsed by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the Stop TB Partnership, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, Treatment Action Group, KNCV, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, USAID and UNITAID.

Earlier this year, The Union launched a new report, Silent Epidemic: A Call to Action Against Child Tuberculosis, calling for urgent action to protect children from TB.

Read the Roadmap Towards Ending TB in Children and Adolescents