A consortium of international, regional and national health research and policy organisations working in Africa and the UK have announced collaborative work on a new DFID-funded Research Programme to improve equitable gender sensitive pathways to quality TB healthcare. The work will create an enabling and supportive environment for the introduction and scale-up of new TB diagnostics, treatments and vaccine as they develop to meet global targets to eradicate TB.
The Research Programme, called Leaving no-one behInd: transforming Gendered pathways to Health for TB (LIGHT), is led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) in the UK. LIGHT will tackle both the root causes of –and responses to – gender-related barriers to access relevant interventions.
The LIGHT programme was officially announced by UK Global Health Minister, Wendy Morton during a visit at LSTM where she held a virtual discussion with international scientists and health experts on how international research can help stop the global spread of infectious diseases, with focus on how to manage the current coronavirus pandemic.
“Liverpool scientists are working incredibly hard with colleagues in the UK and around the world to help fight infectious diseases and save lives. Today’s global discussion reinforced the need for international co-operation on research to fight this pandemic,” she said.
The multi-country Research Programme will be implemented among affected populations living in urban areas in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Malawi. Evidence generated will inform better gender-sensitive and pro-poor policies to enable better access to TB care.
According to Dr Eliya Zulu, Executive Director at the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP, Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing rapid growth in cities where TB and HIV burdens are high. Urban areas also experience high levels of poverty and inequity, and there exist substantial gender gaps in disease burden. For instance, Dr Zulu points out, “there are 4.1 times as many TB cases among men as women in Uganda.”In Low and Middle Income Countries, two thirds of TB infections are recorded among men who go undetected and untreated, a situation that impacts negatively on women, children and efforts to control the epidemic as a whole. Click To Tweet
According to Professor Bertie Squire, Dean of Clinical Sciences and International Public Health at LSTM and Research Director of the Programme “There is increasing evidence that global efforts to end the TB and HIV epidemics are undermined by under-diagnosis, under-treatment and under-reporting, especially among men, who contribute to continuing disease transmission, including to women and children. It is essential that we find transformational ways to End TB by ensuring that drugs, vaccines and diagnostics are targeted in the right ways to ensure they can have maximum impact. We are delighted to have been awarded this funding and anticipate deploying almost £8m strategically over the coming six years, increasing the returns on investments in research and development for new TB technologies.”
LIGHT will be implemented by a multidisciplinary team of health and research uptake experts who will devise and implement optimal access strategies to prevent, detect and treat TB using health and non-health sector approaches. This will result in a new evidence-base on options and approaches to maximise equitable and gender responsive access to healthcare services for TB in urban, HIV-prevalent settings.
“It is great to be part of this innovative programme that will put evidence at the centre of efforts to decisively address the challenges that African countries face in addressing the burden of TB in urban areas. The evidence that we generate will optimise the effective and rapid delivery of existing TB and HIV interventions and maximise the impact of investments within the health systems of low- and lower-middle income countries in Africa,” says Dr Eliya Zulu
With the COVID-19 pandemic, attention and resources are bound to shift and this will see an increased burden in other lung health diseases, leaving the already vulnerable populations worse off. The situation calls for more sustainable interventions than we have had in the past. The new Research Programme hopes to achieve sustained acceleration in the attainment of global TB goals in sub-Saharan Africa by securing changes in policy and practice toward value-for-money, gender sensitive and pro-poor TB interventions.
TB has infected about a quarter of the world’s population and in 2018 is estimated to have caused 10 million people to fall ill, killing 1.4 million. TB is the world’s deadliest infectious disease, a source of one-third of global antimicrobial resistance (AMR) deaths and the leading cause of death among people living with HIV. Despite commitment to ambitious global targets to end the TB pandemic by 2035, the pace of decline is not fast enough to reach these targets and could be derailed by the spread of COVID-19.
It’s Time to end TB.
LIGHT, a consortium led by LSTM and funded with UK aid from the UK government. The Research Programme will generate a new evidence-base on options and approaches to maximise equitable and gender sensitive access to healthcare services for TB in urban, HIV-prevalent settings.
LIGHT is a consortium of leading organisations working in global health, led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), with the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP), Respiratory Society of Kenya (RESOK)–[ formerly Kenya Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (KAPTLD)], Makerere University Lung Institute (MLI), Zankli Research Centre (ZRC) , Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Reseach Programme (MLW)and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).
AFIDEP, Nairobi, Kenya: Elizabeth Kahurani; firstname.lastname@example.org