19 September 2018
GENEVA – The new WHO Global Tuberculosis Report 2018 is a call to arms for the international community, coming one week before the first UN High Level Meeting on TB, the Global Fund said.
Of all the world’s infectious diseases, TB is the leading killer. Approximately 10 million people fell ill with the disease in 2017, and 1.6 million of those died.
“To have any hope of meeting the goal that world leaders have signed up to – ending the TB epidemic in 2030 – we need to act with more urgency, and to invest more money,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “The blunt truth is that we’re not making enough progress. Far too many people are dying - and it’s mainly the poor and the marginalized, people without a voice.”
TB is a preventable and curable disease, but many people suffering from it are left untreated, which can affect global health security. According to the new report, 36 percent of people ill with TB are “missed” – either undiagnosed, untreated or unreported. Untreated, a person with active TB can spread it to others; ineffective treatment can lead to drug resistance, which makes treatment longer, more costly and more toxic.
“In addition to the millions of lives lost, by tolerating the scale of TB in the world we are enabling drug-resistant TB to grow. This is a major global health security threat,” said Sands.
The UN High Level Meeting on TB next week is the cornerstone of what is widely considered a crucial year to accelerate momentum to reach the SDG targets. According to the WHO report, there is a funding gap of US$3.5 billion in 2018 alone – a figure that will nearly double by 2022. More resources from domestic and international sources, high-level political commitment, and investment in research and development are needed.
As the largest international funder of TB programs, the Global Fund is investing heavily in the expansion of improved diagnostics, working with partners to integrate TB screening into other routine health check-ups, integrating TB and HIV services, and expanding treatment of drug-resistant TB. The Global Fund is investing US$125 million in additional funds in 13 countries that account for 75 percent of missing people with TB globally. That investment aims to find an additional 1.5 million people with TB by the end of 2019.