One of the world’s leading killers is finally get some much-needed attention – but when it comes to reducing tuberculosis (TB) deaths, dialogue isn’t enough; we need more resources and political will. This year, we have the chance to step up the global effort against TB – we can’t waste it.
For the first time ever, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis (TB) this fall, highlighting the global importance of the fight to end TB and the UN’s commitment to this cause. As a longstanding partner rallying U.S. support for the UN and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the UN Foundation is dedicated to stopping TB.
TB is the world’s ninth leading cause of death and the world’s leading infectious killer, surpassing HIV. In 2016, an estimated 10.4 million people were infected with TB, and 1.7 million died. Staggeringly, 2 billion people total, or roughly one-third of humanity, are infected with TB. And people living with HIV and AIDS are particularly vulnerable to this highly contagious, airborne disease – representing 10% of TB cases.
Not only is the problem widespread, but TB is a long-neglected disease that hides in plain sight.
An estimated 28,500 people are newly infected with TB every single day – yet nearly 40% of those new TB cases are not detected or diagnosed. That means people in need are not receiving medical care or lifesaving treatment, and could be passing the disease on to others without knowing it. And even more worrisome, the proportion of missing TB cases is not going down. TB must be diagnosed and treated – every case, everywhere.
The emergence of drug-resistant TB poses a major health threat and could jeopardize the progress made against the disease. TB is the main cause of death for people suffering from superbugs that do not respond to antibiotic treatment. The global community, from governments to nonprofits to civil society, are recognizing antimicrobial resistance (AMR)– caused in part by misused and overused antibiotics – as an emerging health threat worldwide. The UN Foundation is working with partners across sectors to sustain progress against AMR; TB is a growing part of the problem. In 2016, 600,000 people were ill with drug-resistant TB; just one-quarter of those serious, life-threatening conditions was diagnosed. And just 130,000 of people with multi-drug resistant TB are receiving the specialized treatment required.
Amid this sobering news, there is still hope. There is a cure, and ending TB is within our reach.
Between 2000-2016, TB diagnosis and treatment saved an estimated 53 million lives, and TB deaths declined by 22%. Through the Sustainable Development Goals, the international community has committed to ending the TB epidemic by 2030.
We can be the generation to end the TB epidemic – but we’re going to have to pick up the pace to reach that goal.
Momentum is building. The upcoming High-Level Meeting follows the successful Ministerial Conference on Ending TB held in Moscow last November, which culminated in the Moscow Declaration to End TB, signed by more than 120 nations.
World TB Day is an occasion to urge leaders around the world to declare their commitment to end this disease, achieving the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The first step is to increase our investment: World leaders need to dedicate resources to cover last year’s $2.3 billion shortfall in the fight against TB. We also need to catalyze an additional $1.2 billion for scientific research and development of innovative new tools to stop this disease. Even a gift of $20 can buy a single TB treatment and potentially save a life.
We also should drive policies that support the poor and marginalized to ensure no one is left behind.
Philanthropists, scientists, academics, civil society advocates, nonprofit leaders, and citizens everywhere should call on their elected officials to ensure that national commitments to TB are kept and translated into action, including taking part in the High-Level Meeting.
Millions of lives depend on it. Give now. Make your voice heard. Together, we can make history and end TB.