Deborah Derrick is president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The views expressed are her own.
The World Health Organization recently released its Global Tuberculosis Report, showing that access to care and treatment for tuberculosis has expanded substantially in the past two decades.
Not only is this good news for those countries that are most vulnerable to tuberculosis; it is also good news for the global community.
In an age of globalisation, the health of one affects the health of everyone. This is particularly true in the case of tuberculosis, a bacterial infection that can be passed through the air and has reached the shores of every continent.
Fortunately, the fight against tuberculosis has also spread to all corners of the globe, supported in large part by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the world’s largest global health financier.
In Huaycán, Peru, a small two-room tuberculosis clinic, once responsible for serving the 2 million people who live in the area, has been replaced with a new center furnished with modern equipment and proper ventilation.
In Tajikistan, a mother is able to secure much-needed medicine for her four boys, all of whom are infected with tuberculosis. And in eastern and southern Africa, services for HIV-TB co-infection have more than doubled in the past two years.
Thanks to critical interventions such as these, more children are able to attend school, more parents are able to care for their families, and more people are able to lead productive lives among their communities.
The Global Fund is the largest global donor to tuberculosis programs, providing 82 percent of international funding to fight the disease. By working with countries to fund their own priorities, the Global Fund has financed the detection and treatment of 9.7 million cases of tuberculosis worldwide.
In the midst of this critical work, the world has never been better positioned to accelerate the fight against tuberculosis. There are already systems in place for detecting and treating tuberculosis in many developing countries, and the countries themselves often fund a significant portion of their own programs.
In addition, some of the most important progress of recent years has been in rapid testing equipment and the development of new tuberculosis drugs. These innovations make diagnosis and treatment faster and less expensive, and have caused diagnostics in the developing world to leapfrog more than a century.
One such advancement is the introduction of GeneXpert technology in South Africa. With this test, checking for tuberculosis or multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) — an even more cunning threat — takes less than two hours.
This particularly deadly type of tuberculosis is resistant to treatment by many drugs and poses a particular danger to those with weakened immune systems. The Global Fund is the primary funder of MDR-TB programs, accounting for 91 percent of international financing to fight the resistant strain.
But there’s more work to be done. With all we’ve achieved, we’re now close to realizing significant declines in tuberculosis infection and mortality, and we’re on the cusp of containing the threat of MDR-TB.
The U.S. has been a strong supporter of the Global Fund’s work, and we must continue the fight against tuberculosis and intensify our efforts against drug resistance — both of which pose a threat to our health care system.
Better health is a global responsibility that can be accomplished through the dedication of governments, their citizens and organizations like the Global Fund.
Together we can stop tuberculosis.