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Opening of WHO ministerial conference

November 16, 2017, Moscow

Vladimir Putin spoke at the opening of the first WHO Global Ministerial Conference titled Ending Tuberculosis in the Sustainable Development Era: A Multisectoral Response.

The Global Ministerial Conference to end TB, which the World Health Organisation is holding together with the Russian Healthcare Ministry for the first time, is a key international event in global healthcare as well as in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Healthcare ministers and ministers from related sectors from 194 WHO member states, heads and representatives of UN bodies and other international organisations, NGOs, civil society representatives, as well as the heads of national programmes dedicated to ending TB are taking part at the conference.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, friends.

I am glad to welcome all of you to Moscow, the capital of Russia and the venue of the first WHO Global Ministerial Conference to end TB.

I would like to thank you all for accepting our invitation to visit Russia and for supporting our initiative on holding an international conference on this serious problem. I am confident that the only way we can stand up against this truly global threat is if we join forces.

Despite the rapid development of diagnostic and treatment methods and progress in pharmaceuticals, TB still poses a major threat to people’s health around the world.

Experts cite a horrible figure for the number of affected people: about one third of the global population. This disease claims more lives than any other infectious disease, sparing nobody, including people in prosperous countries with high living and medical standards. The situation is compounded by direct and indirect socioeconomic losses from TB.

Taken together, this is a most serious concern both at the national and international levels. It is not surprising therefore that ending TB is among the Sustainable Development Goals. Global research and the nations’ consolidated efforts must be focused on this goal.

The death rate from TB will have been reduced by 95 percent by 2035, and its incidence by 90 percent. A difficult and ambitious task by all accounts, especially for the high burden countries, that is, countries with the highest number of TB cases in a year. Unfortunately, such situation with TB is cause for our concern here in Russia too. We are aware of our responsibility and the extreme importance of this matter, and we are concentrating major efforts and resources to resolve it.

I would like to inform you that reducing mortality from TB is among our state priorities along with reducing mortality from cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

We are implementing a number of programmes to combat this disease and providing stable budget financing for these programmes. We pay much attention to improving the diagnostics and treatment, and creating modern vaccines and tests based on biotechnology. In addition, we are improving the system for preventive medical examinations and introducing customised approaches to treating TB based on genetic analysis of the pathogen.

In general, we continue to promote a healthy and active lifestyle and to encourage people to quit bad habits. As you may be aware, smoking is one of the risk factors accounting for more than 20 percent of TB cases worldwide.

Our measures have brought positive results. I think that our experts ‒ your colleagues ‒ will share more about this, expecting to receive useful information from you.

Notably, the death rate from TB in Russia has declined by more than 66 percent, and the incidence rate by 37 percent over the past eight years. During the specified period, the incidence has been decreasing by an average of 1.5 percent internationally, whereas in Russia the rate of decline was 2.8 percent.

However, in order to achieve a radical change in the fight against this disease, of course, new approaches are needed, both at the national and international levels, as well as the joint work of governmental agencies, public and professional organisations.

Another important success factor is to step up scientific tuberculosis research and develop effective diagnostic tools, vaccines and medicines, including those aimed at treating resistant forms of tuberculosis. In this regard, I believe that the initiative of the BRICS countries to create a network to study tuberculosis is very important. Specialists are already working on this project.

I would like to emphasise once again: only coordinated and consistent actions will help us achieve a final victory over tuberculosis. I hope that your conference will contribute to strengthening such a global partnership.

I know that the Moscow Declaration will be signed following this meeting. Our Healthcare Minister Veronika Skvortsova said that it has been practically agreed upon. Over 100 countries, international non-governmental organisations, WHO regional offices and independent experts have been involved in drawing it up. I am confident that such wide participation will allow us to make the most effective, coordinated proposals for fighting tuberculosis.

We expect these steps to be supported at the highest level – by the General Assembly of the United Nations, whose meeting next year will focus on the problems of tuberculosis.

In conclusion, I would like to wish you once again fruitful work and express hope that your meeting will contribute to improving the quality of life and protecting the health of people around the world. You are engaged in a very noble task. I sincerely wish you success.

Thank you very much for your attention.

November 16, 2017, Moscow