Tuberculosis is Now the World’s Leading Infectious Killer
New WHO data drives home urgency in TB fight
Washington, DC, October 28, 2015 — The World Health Organization (WHO) released new data today showing that tuberculosis (TB) is now the world’s leading infectious killer. While the report shows incremental progress against the epidemic, better data gathering now proves that the epidemic is even bigger than previously thought.
RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund Executive Director Joanne Carter released the following statement:
With tuberculosis, the more we look, the more we find. Through the use of more accurate measuring tools, the estimate of the total number of TB cases has been revised upward for the second year in a row. We now know that more lives are lost annually to TB than even to HIV/AIDS.
This does not necessarily mean TB is getting worse — that is, that the number of cases or deaths are growing — but it does mean the problem is bigger than we previously thought. As HIV/AIDS deaths have dropped, this new data on TB is a reminder that with resources and aggressive action, we can sharply alter the course of global epidemics.
In March, the White House committed to develop a national action plan on drug-resistant TB. It was scheduled to go to the President no later than September of this year. Despite encouraging public consultations over the summer months, that plan has yet to materialize. We can’t afford to stall any longer.
In addition to clear and bold targets, this plan and our TB efforts more broadly need to be properly resourced. TB treatment is enormously cost-effective, but it still costs money to make it happen. And while countries with high burdens of TB already provide nearly 90% of all money to tackle TB, external resources are urgently needed to help countries act more boldly and effectively. Resources are also urgently needed to take advantage of a more robust research and development pipeline, and actually deliver new and better tools for the patients who need them.
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has proposed a cut to USAID’s TB program for the last four years. If enacted, these cuts would devastate the U.S. capacity to respond to the epidemic. Fortunately, Congress, whether led by Republicans or Democrats, has seen fit to reject these cuts. But we’re left playing defense, and funding has stagnated at 2012 levels, even as our understanding of the severity of the challenge has grown.
In the months ahead there are some major opportunities for political leadership that will shape our response to the TB epidemic for years to come. First, building on the ambitious End TB strategy approved by the World Health Assembly last year, the Stop TB Partnership will release its Global Plan to End TB in November. This ambitious new plan will provide a costed blueprint to make TB efforts more forceful and effective over the next five years.
In addition, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will launch its replenishment campaign in December to raise the resources it needs to continue its vital work. The Global Fund channels over three-quarters of total donor resources for TB, along with critical investments in HIV and malaria. It will require significant commitments from the U.S. and other donors to ensure a successful replenishment if we are to close the gaps identified in the WHO’s report today and continue to drive progress.
As today’s new TB data makes all too clear, we have no time to waste.
About RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund:
RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund are sister organizations that, together, are a leading force in ending poverty in the United States and around the world. We create long-term solutions to poverty by supporting programs that address its root causes — lack of access to health, education, or opportunity to move up the economic ladder. We empower ordinary people to become extraordinary voices for the end of poverty in their communities, the media, and the halls of government. The collective voices of these passionate grassroots activists leverage millions of dollars for programs and improved policies that give low-income people the tools they need to move out of poverty.