• Tuberculosis

    One-third of humanity carries the tuberculosis bacilli. In most cases, it will remain latent and people will never develop the disease. Tuberculosis is transmitted by air, through coughing and sneezing. One person with untreated active TB can transmit the disease to up to 15 other people in a year. Without proper support and treatment, up to two-thirds of people who develop TB will die.

    Although TB can affect anyone, the disease is closely linked to poverty. Those living in crowded, unsanitary living conditions, who suffer from poor nutrition, or who use tobacco all live at higher risk of developing TB. Those whose immune systems are compromised are at particular risk, which is why TB is the number one cause of death among people living with HIV. Migrants, miners, prisoners, children in contact with TB cases and people who use drugs are among the most vulnerable groups.

    The important thing to remember is that TB is both preventable and treatable.

    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 37 million people between 2000 and 2013. Unfortunately, however, there remains a huge gap in services. Of the nearly 9 million people who developed TB in 2012, 3 million of them were not diagnosed and thus not treated or not notified to their national program. Many people are not being reached with information and services.

    There are a number of challenges in fighting TB. Diagnosis can be difficult, particularly in cases of multidrug-resistant forms of the disease. Fortunately, new tools have been introduced in recent years which greatly reduce the amount of time required for a diagnosis.

    Treatment is also difficult. 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, whereas multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) requires up to two years of treatment at a cost up to 200 times more expensive than standard treatment.

    Stigma and discrimination can also be a barrier, leaving people too fearful to seek out treatment. Which is why education is a critical component of any plan to fight TB.

    The Global Fund has helped to accelerate case detection and successful treatment in recent years, along with patient support and education initiatives. At the end of 2014, 12.3 million cases of smear-positive TB and 150,000 cases of multidrug-resistant TB had been detected and treated by Global Fund-supported programs. Global Fund financing supports countries to introduce and scale up new diagnostic tools and new drugs for TB. The Global Fund provides more than three-quarters of all international financing for TB.