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World leaders vow to unite in the fight against tuberculosis

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By Katie Ryan, ONE Research

On September 26, the United Nations hosted the first ever High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis (TB) to discuss the need for immediate action to speed up progress toward ending the global TB epidemic by 2030.

TB is the world’s leading infectious killer and one of the top 10 causes of death globally. In fact, TB kills over 1.6 million people every year – that’s 4,384 people who needlessly die from TB every day.

But there is good news: Unlike other infectious disease killers, like HIV/AIDS, TB can be treated with a course of medication that has a high rate of success when administered properly.

If TB is preventable and curable, why are 1.6 million people dying from it each year? There are three major challenges standing between us and the elimination of TB:

Missing cases

Though 10 million people were infected with TB last year, 3.6 million people were missed. That is 3.6 million people that are left undiagnosed, untreated, and therefore, contagious.

Drug resistance

Antibiotic resistance is making a deadly enemy, even more dangerous. Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) remains a public health crisis and a health security threat. The WHO estimates that last year, there were 558,000 new cases with resistance to the most effective first-line drug. As a result, only 55% of MDR-TB patients are successfully treated.

Funding

There is simply not enough funding going towards this disease. The cost of inaction is too high to bear. Without major investments, 40 million more people will lose their lives by 2030, the year that the disease is supposed to be eliminated.

At the meeting, all member states endorsed a UN political declaration that commits them to meet goals that could go a long way toward addressing all three of these issues: diagnosing and treating 40 million people by the end of 2022, scaling up global investments for ending TB to US$13 billion per year, and increasing political commitment at the national, regional, and global levels.

But declarations alone are not enough. We need action.

The largest funder of TB programs in the world, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, has invested almost US$6 billion into the fight against TB since 2002. The Global Fund’s Sixth Replenishment, taking place in Lyon, France on October 10, 2019, will be a critical opportunity for donors to recommit to ending TB and follow through on the commitments made at the high-level meeting.

If we want to see a world free from the burden of TB, we need world leaders to translate commitments into concrete action and support a full replenishment. You can help make that happen by becoming a ONE member and joining the fight against extreme poverty and preventable diseases.

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