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Ending TB 2020

Success means finding all people with TB

Image: The Global Fund / Vincent Becker

Eliud Wandwalo

Senior Disease Coordinator, TB, The Global Fund

In the last two years, a coalition of global health partners has invested vigorously in the goal to find more missing people with TB. These efforts are bearing fruit.

In today’s interconnected world, nobody is safe from tuberculosis (TB). Like other diseases that spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing, TB represents a potentially catastrophic risk to global health security. One person with active, untreated TB can spread the disease to as many as 15 other people in a year.

We will only end TB as an epidemic if we find more ‘missed’ people with the disease. ‘Missed’ refers to people who are undiagnosed, untreated or unreported to the health systems.

One person with active, untreated TB can spread the disease to as many as 15 other people in a year.

In the last two years, a coalition of global health partners has invested vigorously in this goal of finding more missing people with TB.

In 2018, seven million people with TB were found globally, up from 6.4 million in 2017. The percentage of people missed by health systems dropped significantly in 2018 to around 30%.

Three million people affected by TB missed from healthcare systems in 2018

Despite this progress, there were still around three million people who were missed by health systems in 2018. Additionally, only one in three people with drug-resistant TB accessed care.

To turn the tide on TB, the Global Fund is working with the Stop TB Partnership and the World Health Organization (WHO), focusing on 13 countries with the highest disease burden.

The goal is to find an additional 1.5 million people with TB every year, starting in 2019. The 13 countries – Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, Ukraine, Kenya, Mozambique and India – together account for 75% of missing people with TB globally.

The results recorded in these countries in the last year are tremendously encouraging. The Global TB Report 2019 shows that the gap between TB notifications and TB incidence in the 13 countries fell to 34% in 2018, down from 49% in 2014. This is the steepest drop on record.

Political support to end TB is increasing

This progress can get even better with strong political support, which seems to be gaining momentum. For the first time, there is tremendous political leadership at the highest levels of government for a plan to accelerate the fight against TB.

The UN High-Level Meeting on TB in 2018 was a historic milestone in the fight against the disease. The meeting set an ambitious goal of finding and treating 40 million people by 2022.

TB has afflicted humanity for millennia, but we don’t have to accept it. TB can be treated and cured. But first we must find all the missing people with TB.

Aftab Ansari left his village in northern India to work as a diamond cutter in Mumbai. But his dreams for a better life for his family suffered a blow when he got drug-resistant tuberculosis. Too weak to work, Aftab was forced to spend his savings, sell his wife’s jewellery and withdraw his children from school to buy food and pay the rent on his two-room cinder block home. He grieved to see his children, 6 and 8, go to bed hungry some nights. To pay bills he took out loans, and sank $US 2,000 into debt, equivalent to ten months’ salary. Aftab, 32, is today back at work and paying his debts after completing the treatment that cured his TB. Infectious diseases like TB put an enormous burden on households worldwide, particularly in lower-income countries, draining billions in medical costs and lost productivity.
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