Global respiratory groups join WHO, calling on world leaders to act on the commitments made to end TB

    The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), joins the World Health Organisation (WHO) campaign urging governments to act on the commitments made to end TB.

    TB remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious killers. According to the WHO each day, nearly 4000 lose their lives to TB and close to 28,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease, this equates to 1.5 million deaths and 10 million people falling ill to TB each year.

    Despite significant progress against TB in recent years, 3 million people with TB disease are still undiagnosed. 1 in 3 people with TB do not access quality care for reasons ranging from gaps in research and development and insufficient or underfunded health services, to long and difficult treatments or because of stigma. In addition, a quarter of the world’s population is estimated to be living with TB infection, the bacteria that causes the disease. People with TB infection are estimated to have a 5-10 percent chance of developing the disease over their lifetime but TB preventive therapy reduces a person’s risk of developing active TB by 60 to 90 percent.

    To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals targets and the United Nations High-Level Meeting commitments by 2030 and 2022 respectively, governments must accelerate their investments and actions to ensure access to quality TB prevention and care.

    FIRS calls for urgent action to advance TB prevention through rapid scale up of access to preventive treatment for TB infection for those most at risk of falling ill of TB including:

    • Four million children under five years of age
    • 20 million other household contacts of people affected by TB
    • Six million people living with HIV and AIDS.

    “Time is running out. Globally, we are falling short of the target to provide at least 30 million people with TB preventive treatment by 2022.” said Mark Cohen, President of FIRS. “We are at a critical time, as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot put End TB progress at risk.”

    The COVID-19 pandemic has made the world aware of how deadly respiratory viruses can be. We have seen how public health and political will can be mobilised quickly and it’s time for us to treat TB as the emergency that it is.

    Find out more about the WHO 2021 World TB Day campaign.

    Protect yourself and others from COVID-19, get your vaccination

    Incredibly, less than a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, several vaccines have been developed and some have been approved for use.

    Vaccines save millions of lives each year. Vaccines work by training and preparing the body’s natural defences, the immune system, to recognise and fight off the viruses and bacteria they target. If the body is exposed to those disease-causing germs later, the body is immediately ready to destroy them, preventing illness.

    Benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccination

    • The approved COVID-19 vaccines have shown to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19.
    • Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
    • The more people who are vaccinated, the slower the disease will spread, saving lives.
    • The COVID-19 vaccination will be an important tool to help stop the pandemic.
    • Vaccines are safe, adverse reactions are rare.

    Wearing masks and social distancing help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough. Vaccines will work with your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed.

    For more information about the COVID-19 vaccines, please visit the World Health Organisation.

    To Meet HIV World Health Goals, TB Treatment Must be Maintained During COVID-19 Response

    The global COVID-19 pandemic has strained health care systems around the world. In the developing world, tuberculosis (TB), which shares several symptoms with COVID-19, is often the first sign that a person has HIV. This World AIDS Day, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), is calling on governments, health advocates and non-government organisations to strengthen their response to AIDS and tuberculosis, and to ensure that TB services are maintained throughout their response to COVID-19.

    TB is the leading cause of death among those with HIV/AIDS worldwide, accounting for about one in three deaths, according to the 2020 UNAIDS Global Update. Yet, 60 percent of people living with HIV and tuberculosis are unaware of their co-infection and therefore not receiving the care that could prevent serious illness and death, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

    “Patients who are HIV positive remain at high risk for TB, and as the world directs its attention to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, it is it critical that TB programs continue to detect and treat cases,” said Juan C. Celedón, MD, DrPH, ATSF, President of American Thoracic Society, a FIRS founding member. “When treated with preventative therapy, latent TB can be managed, reducing the chance of death from AIDS and TB by about 40 percent.” 

    Shortly after AIDS emerged, it fuelled a global resurgence of TB that continues in many low- and middle-income countries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV infection is the strongest risk factor for progressing from latent to active TB.

    COVID-19 presents another challenge, as the symptoms are similar to TB and patients can become ill with both diseases. According to the WHO, experience with COVID-19 infection in TB patients remains limited but people ill with both TB and COVID-19 may have poorer treatment outcomes, especially if TB treatment is interrupted. HIV also increases the risk of other infectious respiratory diseases, including Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia and bacterial pneumonia, both of which can be life threatening.

    Since the AIDS epidemic began, the WHO estimates that 75.7 million people have become infected with HIV and 32.7 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses.

    Education, prevention strategies and new medicines, particularly antiretroviral therapies, have reduced the number of AIDS deaths by 60 percent per year since their global peak in 2004.

    Still, UNAIDS estimates that in 2019, 38 million people were living with AIDS and about 1.7 million people became newly infected.

    FIRS believes a global response to HIV/AIDS can be strengthened by:

    • Increasing awareness of the continuing global threat of HIV-related disease and its link to TB and other respiratory diseases.
    • Improving the health outcomes of people living with HIV through patient care and research into improved treatments and treatment strategies for both HIV and TB.
    • Reducing the incidence and severity of HIV-related disease by strengthening mother-to-child transmission prevention programs and increasing the early use of antiretroviral therapy.
    • Improving HIV education in at-risk communities to reduce the incidence of new HIV infections.
    • Reducing HIV-related health disparities and inequities.

    “As the global medical community responds to COVID-19, it must also continue to strengthen its response to HIV/AIDS, as well as TB prevention and treatment,” said Dr. Celedón. “Not long ago, HIV/AIDS and TB seemed insurmountable, yet HIV/AIDS is now a manageable chronic illness thanks to antiretroviral therapies, and TB is preventable and curable if treated appropriately. As a result, the WHO has set a goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. The progress we have made against HIV/AIDS and TB should serve as an inspiration for medical systems dealing with COVID-19, as proof that epidemics can be managed.”

    The Forum of International Respiratory Societies calls for global access to effective, affordable COVID-19 vaccines

    The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), an organisation comprised of the world's leading international respiratory societies, calls for urgent access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines globally.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has affected more than 72 million people worldwide and resulted in more than 1.6 million deaths to date.  No country has been spared, and throughout the world this pandemic has placed a huge burden on health systems and on economies.   Many countries are now experiencing a second wave of infections, which are more severe than the first initial wave.  The elderly and those with underlying vulnerabilities including diabetes, chronic lung or heart disease, hypertension, obesity or immunosuppression are at higher risk for developing severe disease.

    Incredibly, less than a year after the start of the pandemic, effective, safe vaccines are now being approved for emergency use and some countries have already started vaccinating their citizens. The rapid development and authorisation of these vaccines must be accompanied by close monitoring for further guidance and optimal use.  However, roll out of vaccines is currently predominantly in high-income countries.  There is an urgent need for affordable vaccines to be made available in low- and middle-income countries, especially as there may be limited access to health care and to life saving supportive therapy including oxygen in these settings.

    “Now is a critical time in the fight against COVID-19. We need to ensure affordable, equitable access, transparency and fair distribution of approved vaccines to protect people in all countries.” said Stephanie Levine, MD President of FIRS. “This pandemic has affected people around the world and we now need a global effort to ensure that all countries can access preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic measures to beat it.”

    FIRS is comprised of: American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), American Thoracic Society (ATS), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), Asociación Latino Americana De Tórax (ALAT), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union), Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS), Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), and the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD).

    The goal of FIRS is to unify and enhance efforts to improve lung health globally through the combined work of its more than 100,000 members.

    For more information about FIRS please contact Lisa Roscoe This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    World Pneumonia Day: Urgent progress needed to end the preventable burden of pneumonia and deaths

    On World Pneumonia Day, 12 November, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), calls for urgent progress to end the preventable burden of pneumonia and deaths.

    Pneumonia is the single biggest infectious killer of adults and children – claiming the lives of 2.5 million, including 672,000 children, in 2019. Children under five years old and adults over 70 years make up 75 percent of pneumonia deaths.  Most pneumonia deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.  The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has highlighted the danger of pneumonia particularly in adults, with almost 47 million cases globally and 1.2 million deaths to date.

    To help increase the visibility of pneumonia and to raise public awareness of its risks, FIRS has joined the World Pneumonia Awareness Campaign, Pneumolight. More than 216 iconic landmarks in 47 countries across the globe will light up blue to mark World Pneumonia Day. The event will shine a blue spotlight on this neglected yet leading killer of children.

    Landmarks which will turn blue include: the King George Square in Brisbane, Australia; the Macau Tower in China; the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy; Niagara Falls in Canada; the Cibeles Fountain in Madrid; the National Library of Belarus; Milad – the highest tower in Iran; Olympic Tower in Munich, Germany; the Torch Doha in Qtar; the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada - the highest tower in North America and Table Mountain in South Africa.

    FIRS President, Dr. Stephanie Levine,  FIRS member the Pan African Thoracic Society  President, Prof Joseph Aluoch, and past-President Prof Heather Zar will speak at the Global Conference for World Pneumonia Day, joining a diverse panel of more than 21 speakers from different organisations committed to fighting pneumonia.

    To end the preventable burden of childhood pneumonia and deaths there is a need to:

    • Raise awareness about pneumonia, the leading killer of young children.
    • Strengthen, accelerate and sustain interventions to prevent and treat pneumonia.
    • Focus on equitable access to, and delivery of comprehensive pneumonia prevention and control programs.
    • Design specific strategies to reach the “harder-to reach” populations to improve their accessibility to available interventions.
    • Conduct research to develop innovative strategies to reduce the burden of pneumonia.

    Together, we can end preventable deaths from pneumonia. 

    FIRS calls upon governments, health care providers, researchers, funders and families to ensure:

    • Improved, equitable and sustained access to effective pneumonia prevention and control interventions for all by all.
    • Strengthened health systems that promptly and effectively deliver strategies to reduce pneumonia deaths including provision of effective antibiotics and oxygen delivery systems.
    • Increased support for strategies to prevent pneumonia including immunisation, prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, provision of anti-retroviral therapy for HIV-infected children, reduction of exposure to tobacco and air pollution, and increasing access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
    • Support for research towards innovative diagnostic, prevention and treatment strategies.

    If we do not take decisive action now, 11 million more children will die by 2030.

    About the World Pneumonia Awareness Campaign, Pneumolight

    To find out more about the World Pneumonia Awareness Campaign, Pneumolight, contact Catia Cillóniz on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    Join the Global Conference for World Pneumonia Day on November 12th, 2020, beginning at 16:00 CET and concluding at 20:00 CET by visiting the Pneumolight YouTube Channel.

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