The Director, Center for Global Health, United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), Atlanta, Dr. Rebecca Martins, declared at the weekend that even though preventable and curable, tuberculosis (TB) remains the world’s top infectious disease killer.
Delivering a keynote address at the National TB Conference in Abuja, Dr. Martins, stated that TB is currently killing three people every minute and claiming almost two million lives each year.
The Center for Global Health Director said: “A fourth of the world’s population – nearly two billion people – are infected with TB and nearly 10 million become ill with the disease each year, including almost 500,000 persons with drug-resistant TB.”
She pointed out that, currently, close to 40 per cent of the total estimated TB cases (3.6 million) and 80% of the estimated multi-drug resistant cases remain undiagnosed or unreported each year.
She regretted that many of these are from vulnerable or hard to reach populations such as children and migrants.
According to her: “These missing cases result in continued TB transmission, and contribute to substantial TB morbidity and mortality. Despite these grim statistics, we are standing at a time of great opportunity for TB.
“The World Health Organisation’s End TB Strategy has set bold and ambitious goals to reduce TB mortality by 95% by 2035 and to reduce TB incidence by 90% by 2035 compared to the 2015 levels.
“Alongside these new targets, there is increased political interest and commitment to ending the TB epidemic. United Nations (U.N.) Member States have unanimously made a commitment to diagnose and successfully treat 40 million people with TB by the end of 2022, as well as provide 30 million people with TB preventive treatment (TPT) by 2022 to protect them from developing TB disease.
“This includes at least six million people living with HIV (PLHIV), four million children under five years of age, and 20 million other household contacts.
“The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has committed to providing TPT to 14 million PLHIV receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) through PEPFAR support, including a commitment to reach five million PLHIV by 2020.
“To reach the global targets outlined in the End TB strategy, we must change the trajectory of the TB epidemic and bend, or even better, break the TB incidence and mortality curves, by addressing the drivers of this global epidemic.”