New York, 24 March 2015 – With some 37 million lives saved between 2000 and 2013 through the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis, it is clear that we are within sight of one of the great global health victories. We have the opportunity not just to reverse the spread of TB but, by 2035, to end this epidemic that continues to bring suffering to so many families worldwide.
But victory is not guaranteed. An estimated 9 million people fell ill with TB in 2013, and 1.5 million died. So, on this World Tuberculosis Day I urge governments, communities affected by TB and health workers around the world to intensify their efforts in line with the ambitious strategy established by the World Health Assembly in 2014 to end the global epidemic within two decades.
The End TB strategy of the World Health Organization outlines clear actions and targets that provide a pathway to a world free of TB deaths and suffering. With patient-centred care at the heart, this dynamic action plan will drive forward the critical advances in research and innovation that are needed to combat TB, including the worrying surge in its multi-drug resistant and extensively drug resistant forms.
The strategy also links to the wider poverty-eradication, social protection and universal health coverage agenda. The impact of TB is felt acutely by the most vulnerable populations: those struggling with poverty and poor health systems in low-and middle-income countries; women in their most productive years, from 15 to 44, where TB is one of the top five killers; children; prisoners and migrants; and those living with HIV, for whom TB is the most common form of illness and the leading cause of death.
While the achievement by 2015 of one of the key health-focused Millennium Development Goals, namely the reversal of the spread of TB, is significant, World Tuberculosis Day reminds governments and communities that this is no time for complacency. Efforts must begin now to ensure the effective global roll-out of the End TB strategy and to stimulate the research that will underpin its success.
On this World Tuberculosis Day, let us celebrate the achievements of the past fifteen years by recommitting to end the scourge of TB everywhere by 2035.