TB Now The World’s Leading Infectious Killer

28 October 2015 – New data released today by the World Health Organization shows that tuberculosis (TB) is now the leading infectious killer in the world, underscoring the need for aggressive action and funding to fight the ancient disease.

“More lives are lost annually to TB than even HIV/AIDS,” said Hannah Bowen, ACTION Director. “This is a testament to the impact of aggressive action and ambitious funding on changing the course of a global epidemic like HIV. It’s also a reminder of steady, but slow and fragile, progress against TB.”

Why has TB surpassed HIV as the world’s leading infectious killer?

The more we look for TB, the more we find it. According to the WHO report, 9.6 million people fell ill with TB in 2014 – 600,000 more than reported in 2013. These higher reported figures do not necessarily mean more people are falling ill, but rather that we know more about when and where cases are occurring. This is the second year in a row that the estimate has risen due to new national surveys that use a more in-depth screening formula.

Two out of every five people with TB are still not receiving the care they need. That’s 3.6 million cases of TB that were not reported, and in which the quality of care -- if there was care at all -- is simply unknown. Nearly three-quarters of multi drug-resistant cases were also undiagnosed or unreported.

Ambitious investment and high-level political commitment has driven impressive progress on HIV.  HIV infections fell by about 40% from 2000-2013. Compare this to slower progress on TB: From 2000-2014, the number of new TB cases fell at an average rate of 1.5% per year. At this rate, it will take us 200 years to eliminate TB. Despite affecting similar numbers of people worldwide, in 2014 HIV received $US 11 billion in global health financing, nearly eight times more than the $1.4 billion that funded the fight against TB.[1] With increased political will and funds, the fight against TB could undoubtedly make similar gains.

Building momentum for the fight against TB

“TB is an ancient disease that has been allowed to strengthen under our watch,” said Carol Nyirenda, Executive Director of CITAM+, ACTION’s partner in Zambia. “Now, a set of new opportunities are poised to add up to a tipping point that could end TB in our generation. We don’t have any time for delay.”

High-level political support for TB is gaining ground.  At the UN General Assembly in September, world leaders signed on to the new Global Goals, which include a call to end TB as an epidemic by 2030. Since being founded only one year ago by UK MP Nick Herbert and South African Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi, a Global TB Caucus of elected representatives dedicated to fighting TB has grown to over 600 parliamentarians from 97 countries. It is the largest initiative of its kind in the world.

New, ambitious plans to achieve the end of TB in our lifetime are ready.  Linked to Global Goals targets, the WHO has laid out an ambitious End TB Strategy aiming to eliminate TB as a global epidemic within 20 years. In the middle of November, the Stop TB Partnership will launch a Global Plan to End TB, providing a costed blueprint for ensuring global TB efforts become significantly more ambitious and effective over the first five years of the End TB Strategy.  

Opportunities to increase funding to fight TB are on the table. Currently, TB programs face a $2 billion annual funding gap. TB research and development faces a $1.3 billion annual funding gap. The vast majority of TB funding (87%) continues to come from high-burden countries themselves, and leaders from nations like Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) are increasingly turning their attention to TB. However, countries need additional external funding from donors to be ambitious and scale up new tools. Next year, donors will be asked to replenish funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which will channel over three-quarters of total donor resources for TB over the coming years – a critical time in the effort to end TB.

What is ACTION doing to fight TB?
  • Working with policy makers across ACTION partner countries to build political will to ambitiously fund the fight against TB, particularly through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria
  • Influencing the adoption of ambitious, bold targets and strategies in global TB plans
  • Shaping policies in ACTION partner countries to ensure the fight against TB is prioritized


ACTION is a partnership of 11 locally-rooted organizations around the world that advocate together to build political will and increase investments for global health. Our partners: Æquitas (India) l CITAM+ (Zambia) l Global Health Advocates France l Global Health Advocates India l Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium l Princess of Africa Foundation (South Africa) l RESULTS Australia l RESULTS Canada l RESULTS Japan l RESULTS Educational Fund (US) l RESULTS UK


For more information, or to be connected with our global network of health advocates:
Angela Pereira
Communications Manager
(+1 202) 999-9545