In crowded, seething India, strains of tuberculosis that are resistant to all known TB drugs have emerged. If we don't do something, they could spread around a hyper-connected planet, and humanity could be facing a new Black Death.
We didn’t write that – TIME magazine did.
This week’s cover of TIME magazine declares "Contagion: Why drug-resistant TB threatens us all." It’s a message ACTION and many other tuberculosis advocates have been saying for years – and now the world is paying attention.
Attention and information are the first step to action; so can we translate this attention into the political and public will necessary to finally end this ancient disease? 1.4 million people a year still die from this preventable and curable disease, and the fight against TB has been consistently neglected -- it still faces a funding gap of $8 billion over the next three years.
In her Huffington Post blog earlier this week, ACTION director Kolleen Bouchane discussed the short and long game the world must dedicate itself to in order to end this deadly killer. We must redouble our efforts to detect, treat, and save lives now from TB. We also can't let our efforts to end TB with better diagnostics, drugs, and a vaccine lose momentum.
But we need investment -- particularly investment in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Thanks to Global Fund investments, 9.7 million people have received quality TB treatment since its founding in 2002. Quality, consistent treatment is the front line against the drug resistance battle.
If we don’t pay now to control and end TB, it will only cost the global economy in the long run. According to the World Economic Forum, TB already costs the global economy $13 billion per year through lost productivity, and treating TB’s drug-resistant forms can cost up to 103 times more than treating drug-sensitive TB. Just today, it was reported that public health officials are working to contain a TB outbreak in downtown LA. Hopefully we haven’t forgotten lessons from New York City, where an outbreak of multi drug-resistant TB that peaked in the early 1990s was estimated to cost over $U.S. 1 billion dollars.
The world is ready to pay attention, but is it ready to act?