Tuberculosis is the world’s second most deadly infectious diseases among adults, after HIV/AIDS. Every year, TB kills 1.3 million people and causes nearly 9 million to fall ill.
The tragedy is that TB is curable, yet one third of those who have it – some 3 million people – do not get the treatment they need. Most are poor. Many are from marginalized populations such as migrant workers, refugees and internally displaced persons, prisoners, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities.
Progress in recent years has proven that we can tackle this threat with concerted efforts. Between 1995 and 2012, global health interventions saved 22 million lives and successfully treated 56 million people suffering from TB.
To accelerate results, we need to increase access to health services and mobilize communities, hospitals and private providers to reach more people and treat them faster. We must also invest more in research to find diagnostic tools, drugs and vaccines.
Everyone with TB should have access to the services they need for rapid diagnosis, treatment and cure. This is a matter of social justice. It is also an issue of global health security, given the rapidly emerging problem of patients with deadly, extensively drug-resistant TB going undetected. Even when they are diagnosed, many lack access to effective treatment.
On World Tuberculosis Day, I call for intensified global solidarity to eradicate this preventable disease. By caring for the 3 million people who do not have the treatment they need, we will foster a better future for all humankind.