That’s 1.8 million preventable deaths. In 2015, TB became the world’s deadliest infectious disease. Last year, the World Health Organization estimated that 10.4 million people became sick with TB, with 580,000 cases being drug-resistant.
TB is loud, and its impact can be seen (and heard) in every
country in the world.
As a family disease, TB can swiftly affect all members of a household. If one person has TB, all members are at risk. Women, children, and people with HIV/AIDS are among those most at risk, as TB is transmitted through the air and thrives in weakened immune systems.
This will all too often draw an already vulnerable family deeper into hardship. Many families can’t afford treatment or even to lose out on days of work or school. And if untreated, each adult with active TB will infect between 10 and 15 people every year, negatively impacting the entire community. Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents.
Maternal and child health leaders from across all sectors and at all levels of the health system need to understand TB and its symptoms to diagnose children with the disease.
We need short, safe, and user-friendly drug regimens to help improve treatment compliance, prevent drug resistance, and save lives. (Currently, treating TB means taking medicine every day for 6 – 24 months.) New drugs must be adopted and used for those in need. We also need simple point of care diagnostics and a better vaccine that can help us finally rid the world of TB for good.
This is needed to provide earlier diagnosis, prevention and treatment with the best available medicines for families affected by TB, close to where they live.
Relative to the burden of the disease, the actual investment in fighting TB is massively inadequate. The new Global Plan to Stop TB calls for $56 billion between now and 2020.
Without action, there will be more drug-resistant TB. As a result, the cost of fighting TB will continue to rise. World leaders have come to recognize the impact of TB.
However, even as global agendas align around the need to prevent pandemics, end preventable deaths, and build resilient health systems, TB still lacks the critical funding it needs. There is still a need for greater political will and coordinated action to provide the diagnostic tools, treatments, funding, and resources to achieve ambitious targets.