The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Tuberculosis (TB) Programme today (Wednesday 28 October) released its annual Global TB Report detailing the extent of the global TB epidemic. HIV TB Graphic - Final The figures revealed that TB has surpassed HIV and is now the leading infectious disease killer claiming more lives than any other infectious disease. The numbers revealed that in 2014, 1.5 million people died from tuberculosis while 1.2 million people lost their lives to HIV. Not only did the report highlight the gravity of TB infections globally, it also revealed deadly gaps in the care, diagnosis and treatment of people with TB. Two out of every five people with TB are still not receiving the care they need with 3.6 million cases of TB were not reported in 2014. TB is the world’s deadliest drug-resistant infection, with someone with drug-resistant TB having less than a 1 in four chance of being successfully diagnosed and reported, in which the quality of care is simply unknown. Ambitious investment and high level political commitment is needed to drive the end of TB. HIV infections fell by about 40% from 2000 – 2013. Compare this to slower progress on TB: From 2000-2014, the number of new TB cases fell at an average rate of 1.5% per year. At this rate, it will take us 200 years to eliminate TB. The progress towards the target to end TB by 2030 in the recently agreed Global Goals could be jeopardised. In total, donor countries commit only $800 million a year to tackling TB, compared to an estimated $2.2 billion for malaria and $8.7 billion for HIV/AIDS.

Co-chairman of the APPG TB, Nick Herbert MP, said  “We urgently need to match the ambition with a properly resourced global programme that prioritises new medicines and a vaccine to accelerate action against TB and reduce the risk of drug resistance.”

New, ambitious plans to achieve the end of TB in our lifetime are ready.  Linked to Global Goals targets, the WHO has laid out an ambitious End TB Strategy aiming to eliminate TB as a global epidemic within 20 years. In the middle of November, the Stop TB Partnership will launch a Global Plan to End TB, providing a costed blueprint for ensuring global TB efforts become significantly more ambitious and effective over the first five years of the End TB Strategy.

Aaron Oxley, Executive Director of RESULTS UK, said: “The WHO declared TB a global health emergency 22 years ago and since then nearly 45 million people have died.  The world is sleep-walking through a crisis and the sheer scale of human misery that these numbers represent should be a wake-up call for us all.”

We are at a tipping point that could see the end TB within our lifetime. The global TB response urgently needs increased political will and investment. We don’t have time to delay.