Presidential candidates urged to tackle global TB

Health experts and activists sign letter asking for presidential TB initiative as global awareness effort launches on www.xdrtb.org

Washington, DC (October 3, 2008) — Global health experts and activists have joined together to call on the next U.S. president to develop a global initiative to fight tuberculosis (TB). The call for action comes as renowned photojournalist James Nachtwey unveils his images documenting the devastating impact of extensively drug resistant (XDR) TB.

Signers of the letter to the candidates include Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Dr. Paul Farmer, physician and co-founder of Partners in Health; Dr. Jim Kim, Director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University; John Tedstrom, Executive Director of the Global Business Coalition on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Dr. Lee Reichman, Executive Director of the New Jersey Medical School Global Tuberculosis Institute, and author of Timebomb: The Global Epidemic of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis; Dr. Michael Iseman, chief of the renowned TB program at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver; Dr. Paul Zeitz, Executive Director of the Global AIDS Alliance; and Joanne Carter, Executive Director of RESULTS, an advocacy group that addresses issues of global health and poverty.

Citizen activists in the United States will join in taking action at www.xdrtb.org and www.action.org. Those outside the U.S. will contact leaders of the G8 countries in advance of next year's summit in Italy asking that TB be made a top priority.

The letter asks Senators John McCain and Barack Obama to "prioritize TB in a new administration and launch a presidential initiative to confront this deadly pandemic." Though curable, TB is the leading infectious killer of adults in the world after HIV/AIDS. The disease claims 1.7 million lives each year. Presidential initiatives on HIV/AIDS and malaria have brought needed attention and resources to the fight against those diseases. The same response is needed to stop TB.

The letter asks that a presidential TB initiative include expanded access to treatment, better coordination of HIV/AIDS and TB services, scaled-up efforts to address emerging drug-resistant forms of TB, full funding of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and full funding of recently passed legislation authorizing $4 billion for TB programs over five years.

The call to action comes as photographer James Nachtwey reveals new images documenting the devastating impact of XDR-TB in a major public awareness effort. Nachtwey, in fulfillment of the wish granted with the 2007 TED Prize, hopes to bring worldwide visibility to the emerging crisis of XDR-TB. His photographs will be online at www.xdrtb.org, projected in Times Square and displayed in other major public spaces on all seven continents.

"Decades of progress in global health stand to be undone unless we launch a serious response to global tuberculosis," said RESULTS Executive Director Joanne Carter. "We can no longer pretend that TB is a disease of the past. For millions of people, TB is a deadly reality, and the explosion of drug-resistant strains makes it more dangerous than ever. TB presents a massive threat, but also an incredible opportunity for U.S. leadership in a new administration."