• Tuberculosis

    Tuberculosis has been around for millennia and is known as a disease of poverty. In 2012, it claimed 1.3 million lives, the vast majority of them in low- and middle-income countries. But no country has ever eliminated TB.

    Because it affects mostly young adults in their most productive years, TB is a huge burden to development. The disease, which is both curable and preventable, is caused by bacteria and is spread from person to person through the air by coughing and sneezing. One person with active TB can transmit the infection to another 15 people in a year. Migrants, miners, prisoners and people who use drugs are among the most vulnerable groups. But TB does not discriminate: as many as 74,000 children died of TB globally in 2012 and it’s among the top three causes of death among women aged 15 to 44.

    Over the past dozen years a concerted global effort has managed to halt the spread of TB. Treatment has saved the lives of more than 22 million people since 1995 through DOTS, the basic package that underpins the Stop TB Strategy. The latest report released by the World Health Organization said incidence is falling at a rate of 2 percent per year, with 8.6 million people falling ill with TB in 2012. The critical point is that many people are not being reached with information and services – of the nearly 9 million people who developed TB in 2012, 3 million of them were not diagnosed and thus not treated.

    There are many challenges in fighting TB. One is treatment. Standard TB involves six months of daily medication, which can be very hard on patients, particularly those who live in poverty and cannot afford the time away from earning a living. Without community support, TB patients frequently stop the treatment before it is completed, allowing the bacteria to mutate.

    As a result, new and potent strains of TB are emerging that are resistant to available antibiotics, posing a major global health risk that is accelerating. Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) requires a lengthier and more difficult treatment and can be 200 times more expensive – a drain on any nation’s health budget. Extensively drug-resistant TB - an even more severe form of multidrug-resistant TB - responds to even fewer available medicines. In 2012, an estimated 450,000 people developed MDR-TB.

    HIV and TB are a deadly combination, as each fuels the progress of the other in infected patients. TB is the leading killer of people living with HIV, with about one in four deaths among people with HIV due to TB.  Those who are HIV-positive are up to 30 times more likely to develop active TB than those who are not. Through Global Fund support, countries are making progress in implementing and scaling up TB/HIV collaborative activities.

    The Global Fund has helped to accelerate case detection and successful treatment in recent years, with 11.2 million cases of smear-positive TB detected and treated by Global Fund-supported programs by end 2013. The Global Fund provides almost 90 percent of all international financing for TB.