On March 24th each year, nations around the globe observe World Tuberculosis Day, commemorating Dr. Robert Koch's [Kokh] 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.
Tuberculosis, or TB, is the second leading cause of death from infectious diseases worldwide, infecting almost 9 million people and killing some 1.5 million. Prior to the advent of antibiotics in the 1940s, TB was one of the most feared diseases around. Today, 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.
This year’s theme--2016: Unite to End TB-- aims to advance the United Nations’ goal of ending the epidemic by the year 2030. The idea is to promote collaboration and communication among various concerned groups and individuals across sectors and disciplines of every sort, so they can exchange ideas and utilize their expertise to eliminate some of the obstacles that need to be overcome if we are to succeed.
This means that, as part of the campaign to vanquish TB, we must do our best to eliminate poverty, which helps sustain the epidemic; we must find better, more efficient ways to test for the disease, and to treat and cure those who are found to suffer from it; we must find a way to end the stigmatization of the victims of Tuberculosis, and end discriminatory practices against them; and we must find new ways to attack the disease and its attendant problems.
The United States is committed to fighting Tuberculosis. 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 continue to partner with the World Health Organization, or WHO, the Stop TB Partnership, and the Global Drug Facility, to provide important support for TB control activities worldwide and achieve the world’s vision with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.
By joining in a global commitment to stop the spread of TB, we can begin to free a new generation from an ancient affliction.