TB is the world’s leading infectious killer
Washington, D.C. (Oct. 30, 2017) – New data released today by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that progress toward ending tuberculosis (TB), already the world’s leading infectious killer, is stagnant. According to the WHO report, 10.4 million people fell ill with TB in 2016—600,000 cases being drug-resistant—and that 1.7 million people died from the disease. Last year, two out of every five people with TB were undiagnosed or unreported, making the already inadequate, underfunded global response to this airborne disease even starker.
“The huge scale of the TB problem, the pervasiveness of the disease, and its status as the leading infectious killer, increasingly resistant to traditional treatment, is fueling greater urgency for global leaders to take meaningful action,” said Allan Ragi, executive director of ACTION partner KANCO, the Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium.
“The greatest challenge we face is the lack of attention and resources to fight the disease, which is preventable and treatable,” continued Ragi. “The next year presents significant opportunities for policymakers, the private sector, and civil society to commit to reach, treat, and cure everyone with TB. We must make this year count!”
In two weeks, Ministers of Health from around the world will gather in Moscow for the WHO Global Ministerial Conference on ending TB, hosted by the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation. And, in September 2018, heads of state will gather for the first ever United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB. The High-Level Meeting is an enormous opportunity to accelerate country and global efforts, increase political attention, ambition and accountability to end TB.
These political moments are made more important and opportune by the availability of critical new tools that can profoundly impact the epidemic. For the first time in nearly 50 years, there are two new medicines to fight drug-resistant TB (DR-TB): bedaquiline and delamanid. These drugs have been found to make TB tests turn negative more quickly and protect against the development of further drug-resistance. Additionally, neither drug has the horrible side effects, such as hearing loss and psychosis, that accompany standard DR-TB treatment.
However, for most of the people whose lives depend on these new drugs, they are out of reach. Fewer than 1 of out every 16 people eligible for bedaquiline has access to it. The situation is far graver for delamanid, where only one in 200 people who need it have access. Meanwhile, new diagnostics like GeneXpert Ultra can help identify TB in groups that were previously difficult to diagnose, including children and people living with HIV.
"These upcoming moments are opportunities for world leaders to make ambitious, measurable commitments to reach everyone with TB and ensure quality treatment, including urgently increasing access to newly available drugs, and making sure we fully fund further research and development,” said Mandy Slutsker, ACTION Secretariat policy and advocacy manager. “But commitments only mean anything when they’re backed by resources and action. It will be critical to hold leaders accountable.”
ACTION is a partnership of 12 locally rooted organizations around the world that advocate together to build political will and increase investments for global health. Our partners: Æquitas (India); CITAMplus (Zambia); Global Health Advocates France; Global Health Advocates India; KANCO, Kenya; Princess of Africa Foundation (South Africa); RESULTS International Australia; RESULTS Canada; RESULTS Educational Fund (U.S.); RESULTS Japan; RESULTS UK; and WACI Health (Kenya).
For more information, or to be connected with our global network of health advocates:
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 Data from DR TB Stat as of October 2017, including only numbers reported for routine programmatic use. Eligibility derived from new estimated cases of MDR-TB in the Global TB Report 2016.