24 March 2014
Just over 8.5 million people a year fall ill with TB, which is exceeded only by HIV/AIDS in the number of lives taken by a disease caused by a single infectious agent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). About 1.3 million succumbed to the disease in 2012, and it is the leading cause of death for 20 percent of people with HIV/AIDS.
The toll of the disease is high, but it is slowly declining, and WHO reports that the fulfillment of international goals to slow the spread of the disease by 2015 are in sight.
Of the millions who fall ill each year, as many as 3 million are never seen or treated by public health systems because of isolating factors such as poverty, stigma or lack of access to a health facility. Developing better solutions to “reach the 3 million” is the theme of World TB Day 2014, and members of the StopTB Partnership aim to target better TB diagnosis, treatment, prevention and cures to these overlooked patients.
“To reach those most vulnerable, most at risk, those that are poor, weak, scared, stigmatized and alone — for this, you need additional efforts, you need innovative thinking and, beyond anything else, you need to care,” said Dr. Lucica Ditiu, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, in a press release. “I am happy we are having this conversation on reaching, treating and curing everyone with TB at a global level. This is what it is all about.”
The partnership is highlighting the missing patients and is proposing solutions that grass-roots organizations, governments and the global community might adopt to better address the problem.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are among the many partners addressing what is considered a global health emergency. The U.S. agencies are helping countries with high TB caseloads to expand their basic control programs, invest in research and development, and reach vulnerable populations.
The CDC is involved in collaborations to address TB in Botswana, Cambodia, China, Guyana, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Mexico, Mozambique, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam. Through the CDC Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, priorities include:
• Strengthening national TB programs in high-burden countries.
• Reducing the impact of TB among people living with HIV.
• Improving and expanding diagnosis, treatment and prevention of drug-resistant TB.
• Strengthening TB laboratory systems internationally.
• Improving infection-control practices to prevent TB transmission.
The National Institutes of Health works in biomedical and clinical research to develop vaccines and improve diagnostic methods and treatment.
USAID provides substantial support to programs building disease-fighting capabilities in developing countries.