Tuberculosis is the second leading cause of death from infectious diseases worldwide, infecting almost 9 million people and killing some 1.3 million annually.
On March 24th, nations around the globe will observe World Tuberculosis Day, commemorating Dr. Robert Koch's 1882 discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that cause the disease. The observance is designed to build public awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis. TB is the second leading cause of death from infectious diseases worldwide, infecting almost 9 million people and killing some 1.3 million annually.
Prior to the advent of antibiotics in the 1940s, tuberculosis, or TB, was one of the most feared diseases around. The majority of TB deaths occur in the developing world, where the disease is closely linked to poverty, marginalized and vulnerable populations, substandard housing, and poor nutrition.
The fight to eliminate TB has seen tremendous progress over the past quarter century, with a 45 percent decline in mortality since 1990, and the emergence of new technologies, such as fast-acting diagnostics for use in low- and middle-income countries, and which was developed with funding from the U.S. government, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization.
Despite the availability of effective treatment for many decades, TB remains a major global health problem. Today, TB’s global incidence rate is falling slowly. Five of the six WHO regions of the world are on track to meet the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving TB prevalence and deaths by 2015. This effort will require engaging all public and private health providers, people in endemic communities, and TB patients themselves.
The United States is committed to fighting TB. In focusing our efforts in countries where the burden of TB is highest, we support programs that save lives and foster a more secure world. Across the federal government, we have made this fight a priority.
We are the first and largest single contributor to The Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, having donated over 5 billion dollars to the Global Fund since its inception in 2002.
The United States continues to partner with the World Health Organization, or WHO, the Stop TB Partnership, and the Global Drug Facility, all of which provide important support for TB control activities worldwide.
While these developments are encouraging, the fight to eliminate TB requires continued strong engagement and commitment by governments and communities, public and private healthcare providers, people in affected communities, and TB patients themselves.
By joining in a global commitment to stop the spread of TB, we can begin to free a new generation from an ancient affliction.