WHO TB 2019 report: Unprecedented political commitment leads to unprecedented progress

But with a $3.3 billion shortfall in funding, gaps in treatment and prevention among the most vulnerable still take 4,000 lives a day

For the first time, political commitment “at the highest level” has joined against the world’s deadliest infectious disease, the World Health Organization’s tuberculosis response leader noted today, unveiling the agency’s 2019 Global TB report. The national leaders making that commitment, have united, in turn, she added, with those on the ground, the tuberculosis treatment activists, survivors, and those likeliest to be affected by the failures and successes to find, prevent, and successfully treat the disease.

Data in the report reflect that commitment, WHO Global TB Programme Director Dr Tereza Kasaeva said. In the year that the United Nations held its first high-level meeting to confront, together, the global impacts of tuberculosis, more people received life-saving treatment for tuberculosis than ever, reflecting more effective efforts than ever to find and diagnose people sick with the disease. More than half a million more people were treated for tuberculosis than in the year before. About a 100,000 more lives were saved. More people living with HIV, a population for whom TB remains the leading cause of death, were able to access preventive treatment. Efforts to catalogue and respond to the catastrophic economic impacts of tuberculosis, on individuals, their families and their communities were aided by more national tuberculosis programs formally surveying those impacts.

Advances in Europe and in countries with some of the highest rates of tuberculosis illnesses and deaths have put some places on track to reach goals set to eliminate the disease as a global health threat in the next decade.

But with investments in research, health system, outreach, screening, diagnosis and treatment still falling $3.3 billion short of $10.1 billion estimated to be needed for comprehensive efforts to meet those goals globally, about 4,000 people continue to die daily from an ancient, preventable, curable disease, speakers at today’s report release noted. And while improved links to care have enabled access to preventive tuberculosis treatment to more people living with HIV, access has not improved for others at heightened risks of tuberculosis illness — including small children sharing households with sick family members.

With increasing amounts of available data, the World Health Organization’s annual tuberculosis report has become “an essential handbook” for everyone, from doctors and nurses, policy makers and activists, patients and family,  involved in responding to the disease, Dr. Kasaeva said.

“We can and we must do better,” she added. “There has never been a better opportunity. If not now, when? If not us, who?”

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