This is a guest blog post by Nicole Williams, Group Leader of the Sheffield RESULTS Group. Nicole considers the importance of the recent UK pledge to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, the upcoming pledging conference in Lyon, France, and the importance of focusing on the impact of TB on women and girls.

Sheffield Group members

Image: Nicole (left) and Beccy from the Sheffield RESULTS group.

On 10 October, France will host the Global Funds sixth replenishment pledging conference in Lyon. The Global Fund seeks to raise at least US$14 billion in the next three years in order to cut the mortality rate of HIV, Malaria and TB in half and to create stronger health systems by 2023. Global efforts are increasingly being made to stem these diseases, with the UK setting a precedent when it comes to leading the fight against deadly diseases. Its recent pledge of up to £1.4 billion over the next 3 years shows the UK’s clear commitment to global health.

While efforts continue to be made worldwide to stem these diseases, readers may not be aware that tuberculosis (TB) remains the world’s deadliest infectious killer. In 2017, TB killed around 1.6 million people, making it one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. One person with active untreated TB can spread it to 15 people in a year.

While TB generally strikes more men than women, it remains among the top five causes of death for women between the ages of 15 and 44 in low and middle-income countries. Looking particularly at the UK’s key priorities set out as part of the funding agreement, the government has specifically prioritised helping the most poor, marginalised and vulnerable – including women and girls. This is incredibly important when it comes to tackling this infection, as difficulties accessing medical treatment and diagnosis of TB can pose a huge challenge for women and girls in some countries.

While rates of TB are relatively low in the UK compared to other countries, it is important for readers to keep in mind that this infection does not stop at borders. TB continues to be a major public health issue in Europe. Multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB is among the highest in the world in Eastern Europe, especially in countries such as Belarus, where nearly 38% of new TB cases are MDR compared to the global average of just 4%.

Progress, however, is being made. Between 2000 and 2017, the mortality rate for TB has fallen by 42%. Due to the programmes incorporated by partnerships such as the Global Fund, new TB infections are falling at around 2% per year. However continued support is needed in order to improve this figure to 10% and to reach the goal of ending the epidemic by 2035. It is hoped that with an increased awareness of the prominence of TB worldwide and of the UK’s continued support in the fight against this deadly infection, this will encourage other governments to contribute generously at the upcoming pledging conference in Lyon.