The world came together this past Saturday to mark World TB Day. It was a truly impressive display of unity and a call to action for leaders around the globe. However, one day of attention can only do so much. We must continue to band together to eradicate this disease that has now killed millions if not billions of people over the ages.
It is frankly an outrage that we still use the same tools - the same drugs, the same vaccine and the same diagnostics - that have been used as far back as a century ago. Together we have an opportunity to change that reality and turn the tide against TB.
We are pleased to see signs of hope for a world free of what is now the deadliest infectious disease. We hold high expectations for concrete, global action as we look ahead to the United Nations General Assembly first-ever high-level meeting on tuberculosis this coming September.
In his World TB Day message, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that “many of our best drugs against TB are becoming less effective. While the world has committed to end the TB epidemic by 2030…actions and investments don’t match the political reality.” He is clear that “now is the time to make sure commitment becomes action.”
European Commissioners Andriukaitis, Moedas, Thyssen and Mimica also made this case in a joint statement, calling “on governments all over the world to redouble their efforts” to end TB by 2030 and concluding that “with political will, determination and sufficient funding, we can save lives.” The collaboration of these commissioners, who represent the causes of health, innovation, social affairs and international cooperation is a tribute to the multifaceted and interwoven approach necessary to face down the TB pandemic.
In an opinion article for STAT published this week, UN Special Envoy on TB Eric Goosby and Michel Kazatchkine, special advisor to UNAIDS for Eastern Europe and Central Asia wrote that "when the world leaders gather, we hope they commit to the resources necessary to make detection, treatment, and prevention available to all.”
These are but three of many impassioned calls for action. It is our collective responsibility to join these voices and put pressure on world leaders to implement new policies as well as find and fund solutions to this humanitarian crisis.
World TB Day serves as a reminder of the work that lies ahead. Without a marked increase in commitments to develop the new tools we need and to strengthen health care systems to deliver these tools, the TB community will be left to fight a losing battle. The world cannot afford that outcome. Together, we can bring an end to TB.
Thank you for the commitment you have shown and will continue to show in this fight.
Mel Spigelman, MD
President and CEO