Each year, on March 24, World TB (tuberculosis) Day brings awareness to the devastating health, social and economic impacts of the world’s deadliest infectious disease and highlights the work still ahead to eliminate the disease.
On average, 1.5 million people have lost their life to TB year-on-year over recent decades, despite being declared a Global Emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1993.
By comparison, the devastating toll of the COVID-19 pandemic claimed 1.8 million lives globally in 2020.
Although global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 63 million lives since the year 2000, there is still much to be done.
This year, ‘The clock is ticking’ is the theme for World TB Day, sending a message of urgency to global leaders to act and commit to ending TB.
This is particularly critical in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing disruptions to essential health services including TB programs and research.
COVID-19 has presented challenges to the fight against TB, but it has also demonstrated what’s possible with political will and global commitment to a cause – with the rapid development of diagnostics, therapeutics and now vaccines – all tools also desperately needed for TB.
‘The clock is ticking’ puts the accent on the urgency to act on the commitments made by global leaders to:
- Be held accountable and commit financial resources.
- Promote an end to stigma and discrimination.
- Promote an equitable, rights-based and people-centred TB response.
- Scale up systematic screening and access to care.
- Fast-track treatment in people living with HIV to save lives.
- Expand access to TB preventive treatment that can stop the infection from developing into disease.
- Expand access to WHO-recommended fully-oral treatment regimens that improve treatment outcomes.
- Invest in innovation for effective medicines, vaccines and tools.
March 24 marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, opening the way towards diagnosing and curing the disease.