This is a post written by Andreas Hübers, ONE’S Health Policy Director.
A few years ago, a friend of mine showed symptoms of tuberculosis (TB) in the Netherlands. He was diagnosed and immediately put on treatment. I had never paid much attention to this, all too often, forgotten disease. Luckily, the treatment went well and the municipal disease control was so strong, it contained a further spread of the disease. But this single case of tuberculosis got me thinking about my lack of knowledge about this preventable disease. Here are my five top take-aways:
1. TB is a forgotten disease – and that is dangerous!
In 2014 alone, 9.6 million people fell ill with TB, and 1.5 million people died from the disease, rendering it the leading cause of death from infectious disease worldwide, narrowly followed by HIV/AIDS. Over 95% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, which explains why people might forget about it. And it is among the top five causes of death for women aged 15 to 44.
2. Since 2000, encouraging progress has been made against TB.
Over the last 15 years, substantial progress has been made to mitigate the impact of TB, particularly in those 22 countries where 80% of global TB cases occur. Specific progress was also made among vulnerable and disenfranchised populations. Since 2000, global TB incidence has fallen by an average of 1.5% per year. It is now 18% lower than it was in 2000. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set out to halt and reverse TB incidence in each of the six World Health Organization (WHO) regions, this has now been achieved, including in 16 of the 22 high-burden countries mentioned above. As fewer individuals became sick with TB each year, the TB death rate dropped by 41% between 2000 and 2014, saving an estimated 43 million lives worldwide.
3. Complacency is not an option as colossal challenges remain.
Without an aggressive response in the next five years, the architects of the Global Plan to End TB predict that we could see 8.4 million additional cases, 1.4 million additional deaths, $5.3 billion lost to treatment, and $181 billion lost to compromised productivity by 2020.
Despite the gains made in the fight against TB, we need to stay focused on an effective response against the disease. In 2014, 37% of new TB cases went undiagnosed or were not reported, making it next-to-impossible for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, the WHO and other actors to maintain active surveillance and ensure practical care for those who are sick.
4. It is essential to fully finance the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.
The risk of tuberculosis striking again with full force shows why it is now more important than ever to invest in the Global Fund. Since 2002, the Global Fund has disbursed $4.65 billion of TB funding to 140 countries, detecting and treating 15 million cases of TB, including 230,000 people for drug-resistant TB.
The work of the Global Fund means that 15 million people who would have otherwise not had access to treatment are alive and well. Consider the story of Ambiya, a 15-year-old girl in Jakarta, Indonesia being treated for drug-resistant tuberculosis, through support from the Global Fund. After 18 months of treatment, Ambiya is now cured of this deadly disease.
5. We can all help end tuberculosis.
Please help us spread the successes and challenges and tell a friend about Ambiya. And even more concretely, you can encourage world leaders to give to the Global Fund so it can officially end TB as a threat to public health by 2030.