An introductory meeting of WHO’s Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Tuberculosis (STAG-TB) was held on 24-25 June 2020. STAG-TB, which is comprised of 15 eminent experts from ministries of health, national TB programmes, academic and research institutions, civil society organizations, and communities and patients affected by TB. The group is led by Dr Ariel Pablos-Méndez as Chair,  and provides strategic advice to WHO’s Director-General and the Global TB Programme on its TB response.

In his keynote address, WHO Director General Dr Tedros emphasized the important strategic role of STAG-TB in efforts to end TB especially in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. He said, “Even at this difficult time, with COVID-19 threatening the world, WHO remains committed to meet the TB targets and driving high-level action and investment. Commitments must be kept to address all communicable disease threats, and reach the triple billion targets, despite the COVID-19 crisis. Doing so offers hope to end avoidable death and suffering for millions of people worldwide at risk from preventable and treatable diseases like TB.”

The meeting was opened by Dr Ren Minghui, WHO Assistant Director-General, Universal Health Coverage, Communicable and Noncommunicable Diseases Division. The first day focused on briefings from the WHO Global TB Programme secretariat on ongoing WHO efforts towards ending TB, preparations underway for the development of the 2020 progress report of the UN Secretary General on TB, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the TB response. The second day included a special session of STAG-TB members with WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Key partners – Stop TB Partnership, Global Fund and UNITAID also participated in this session.

Dr Ariel Pablos-Méndez, STAG-TB Chair highlighted the group’s commitment to guide WHO’s TB response. He emphasized, “We need to leverage existing synergies between TB and universal health coverage to save lives. This is especially critical in this time of crisis. STAG-TB is dedicated to providing strategic direction that will guide WHO in supporting countries to accelerate progress and investment to reach targets set by the UN High-level Meeting on TB.”

Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme appreciated the role of STAG-TB, she said, “The STAG-TB provides a critical contribution to WHO, and the world, in combatting TB. We look forward to receiving strategic advice from STAG-TB during this, and coming, years on how the world can meet commitments to end the TB epidemic especially in the face of new threats”.

The next meeting of the STAG-TB will be held in November 2020.

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