Tuberculosis, or TB, is a curable disease, and for the first time in history, we have the opportunity to defeat this age-old killer. We have effective diagnostic tools and medicines for most forms of TB, and several new and improved medicines are likely to be rolled out in the next few years.
In May 2014, the U.S. Government and global community joined together around the vision of a world free of TB. We pledged to reduce TB deaths by 95 percent and new TB infections by 90 percent by 2035.
This is an ambitious goal, but it is achievable.
Change Through U.S. Leadership & Partnerships
The U.S. Government is a leader in the global TB care effort, having invested almost $3 billion to combat TB between 2009–14, and USAID leads this U.S. Government effort.
At USAID, we are focusing our investments on strengthening national TB strategies and programs in 26 countries with high rates of TB, multidrug-resistant TB and HIV-associated TB.
In order to achieve our goal of eliminating TB as a global health threat by 2035, we will work with partners to reach every person with TB, cure those in need of treatment, and prevent new TB infections, as laid out in the U.S. Government’s 2015-2019 Global TB Strategy [pdf].
Expanding our Reach
Of the estimated 9 million people who develop TB each year, 3 million never seek or receive formal diagnosis or treatment. These individuals suffer – and often die – needlessly, compounding this tragedy by transmitting TB to others.
In order to end the TB epidemic, we must do more to reach these “missing” 3 million. USAID is working with partner governments to increase TB case-finding by improving diagnostic networks and improving screening for those who are at risk of getting TB.
As part of this effort, we are supporting the global scale-up and use of new diagnostic tools such as GeneXpert, a revolutionary tool that provides faster and more accurate diagnoses and is particularly effective at diagnosing TB among children, people living with HIV, and people suffering from multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).
Curing and Preventing TB
USAID supports national programs to diagnose and treat TB in the countries hardest hit by TB, MDR-TB and HIV-associated TB. In 2013, we helped support TB treatment for 2.7 million people.
We are continuing to tackle the growing threat posed by drug-resistant TB. MDR-TB has been detected in almost every country in the world and poses a serious threat to both the global community and American citizens. Left unchecked, the spread of drug-resistant TB will reverse the great progress made thus far. USAID is working with partners to scale-up MDR-TB treatment programs and to make medicines more available and affordable.
We are also expanding our efforts to detect, cure, and prevent HIV-associated TB—an urgent priority as TB kills one out of every four people living with HIV/AIDS. Early initiation of antiretroviral therapy and isoniazid preventive therapy can greatly reduce the risk of TB among people living with HIV/AIDS. Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. Government is working to improve TB case detection for those with HIV/AIDS and increase coverage of these therapies.
Currently, the most effective way to prevent the spread of TB is by providing life-saving treatment to those who fall ill. TB patients who are cured through appropriate treatment will no longer transmit the disease to those around them. Accordingly, we are focusing on TB treatment as a primary method of preventing new infections. We are also working to improve infection control measures in health care settings and communities to further reduce the spread of TB.
Looking to the Future with Optimism
From 2000-13, more than 37 million people were cured of TB. We’ve reduced TB deaths by almost half since 1990, and the world has achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of reversing the spread of the disease.
We stand with our partners, united in our efforts to save lives and develop healthier societies in vulnerable countries. We have the ability to rid the world of TB. And – with continued global action, investment and innovation – we will do so.
I hope that on this World TB Day, you will join us in the pledge to reach every person with TB, cure those in need of treatment, and prevent new TB infections.