Washington, D.C. (March 22) – ACTION global health advocacy partnership is observing World Tuberculosis (TB) Day with new calls on world leaders to prioritize ending the disease. Caused by an airborne bacterium, TB is the world’s leading infectious disease killer, responsible for 1.7 million deaths per year and sickening more than 10 million in 2017.
After years of being overlooked, TB is finally becoming a political priority on the world stage. Last week at the Delhi End TB Summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi officially launched India’s national plan to fight TB, a new strategy with the goal of ending the diseases in India by 2025 — five years ahead of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This was the second time in the last five months that a head of state made a formal address about the disease. In November, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to over 70 Ministers of Health at the first-ever World Health Organization (WHO) Global Ministerial Conference on TB.
International health organizations are also identifying strategies to reach the goal of finding and treating all people with TB. During the Summit, WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced a joint WHO/Stop TB Partnership initiative to reach 40 million people with quality TB treatment by 2023.
“For decades, TB has been stuck at the bottom of the list of global political priorities, allowing it to climb up the list of the biggest global killers,” noted Dr. Joanne Carter, executive director of RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund. “We can and must reverse that trend. High-level political commitment, new investment, and a strategy to reach and treat everyone can make that happen.”
The disease has been gaining increased attention, thanks largely to the relentless efforts of advocacy groups around the world. On September 26, global leaders will gather at the United Nations’ first-ever High-Level Meeting (HLM) on TB to be held alongside the UN General Assembly in New York. The meeting is an opportunity for heads of state to make clear commitments to fight a disease with severe health, social, and economic consequences for their countries.
The human and economic toll are acute; in addition to the lives lost to TB, the burden is heavy even for those who are treated successfully, due to long treatment courses and severe side effects. Though the spread of TB is largely well-contained in high-income countries, TB exists around the world and remains common in many low- and middle-income countries. Currently, two out of every five people carrying TB — or 4.1 million people worldwide — go undiagnosed or unreported. In the case of drug-resistant strains, the rate of undiagnosed or unreported cases is 78 percent. Without significant investment in the fight against TB, the disease is estimated to cost the global economy nearly $1 trillion USD by 2030.
“For a disease that’s largely preventable, treatable, and curable, we cannot be satisfied with a status quo that fails to reach two out of every five people. This is an equity issue. It’s well within our collective power to reach every person, with quality testing, treatment, and care — if we muster the resources and focus,” Carter added.
A lack of political will and resources, resulting in an annual funding gap of at least US$2.3 billion for programs to find, monitor, and treat cases, and an annual gap of $1.2 billion for research and development into new diagnostic tools and treatment, are cited by advocates as the greatest barriers to eliminating TB.
“Political leadership is key to defeating TB and 2018 is the year for leaders to make ending TB a priority,” said Carol Nawina Kachenga, executive director of ACTION partner, CITAMplus, a Zambian organization that fights HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria through community engagement. “The UN High-level Meeting is an opportunity for leaders to showcase their commitment. High burden countries must increase domestic investment and donors must fulfill pledges made at the Global Fund’s Fifth Replenishment and commit new resources. Unless we increase resources to fighting the disease, we will not be able to find the missing cases or eliminate TB.”
ACTION is a partnership of 13 locally rooted organizations around the world that advocate together to build political will and increase investments for global health. Our partners: Æquitas (India), CITAMplus (Zambia), Global Health Advocates France, Global Health Advocates India, Health Promotion Tanzania, KANCO (Kenya), Princess of Africa Foundation (South Africa), RESULTS International Australia, RESULTS Canada, RESULTS Educational Fund (U.S.), RESULTS Japan, RESULTS UK, and WACI Health (Kenya and South Africa).
Grace Virtue, Ph.D.
Senior Advisor- Communications
c/o RESULTS Educational Fund
1101 15th Street NW, Suite 1200, Washington, DC 20005
+1 (202) 783-4800 ext. 123 • Skype: grace.virtue
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