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Investment and Innovation Now: Charting A Course to End Tuberculosis

This World TB Day, ACTION calls for international donors and national governments to commit to the long-term investment and innovation that will control and end tuberculosis (TB), an airborne disease that is becoming increasingly drug-resistant and lethal.

From fighting drug-resistant TB in Eastern Europe and Kenya, to highlighting the importance of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to addressing the TB epidemic in South Africa’s mines, ACTION partners around the globe are asking their leaders to address the urgency of tuberculosis, which is gaining resistance against current drugs.  

Ending this disease is within our grasp for the first time in human history; we now have the knowledge and ideas to get to zero TB deaths and zero new TB infections in our lifetime. 

While the need is urgent and the pathway to eradicating TB is clear, the world cannot control and end this disease at current funding levels. Recent numbers released by the World Health Organization and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria estimate the global TB fight is hobbled by an  annual $1.6 billion funding gap for TB care and control  in 118 low and middle income countries.

Countries with high burdens of TB must prioritize funding for their national TB programs, but we can only get to zero if the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria receives a full replenishment of its funding in 2013. The Global Fund provides 90% of external funding to global TB care and control efforts, with 9.7 million people receiving TB treatment thanks to its investments. This progress will fall backwards and drug-resistant strains will strengthen unless both traditional donor countries and new donors step forward to replenish the Global Fund’s funding in 2013.

 “World leaders face a historic moment to end an ancient disease that is only growing in lethality, said ACTION Director Kolleen Bouchane. “This year, our governments and leaders must step forward to ensure the Global Fund can continue to curb the increasing threat of TB and save millions of lives.”

The world cannot control and end TB unless new tools are developed to replace the antiquated, slow, and sometimes ineffective ones currently in use. Decades of neglect have left TB research and development (R&D) to play catch up, but the pipeline of potential new tools features more options than ever before. TB R&D, however, still faces an annual funding gap of $US 1.4 billion, which is in addition to the $US 1.6 billion gap mentioned earlier.

To get to zero, we urgently need: a cheap and simple point-of-care test that rapidly delivers results, drugs that treat all forms of TB more quickly and with less severe side effects, and an effective vaccine safe for all ages. The public and private sector must join forces to provide the long-term investment needed to carry these tools through development.

If we don’t pay now to control and end TB, it will only cost the global economy in the long run.  Treating TB’s drug-resistant forms can cost hundreds of times more than treating drug-sensitive TB. Hopefully we haven’t forgotten lessons from New York City, where an outbreak of multi drug-resistant TB in the late 1980s was estimated to cost over $US 1 billion dollars.

This World TB Day, ACTION calls for national and world leaders to join with our partners, international institutions such as the Global Fund and the World Health Organization, along with all those who have been impacted by tuberculosis to commit the political will and resources needed to finally end this disease.