05/24/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

World Tuberculosis Day: Help The 9 Million That Get Sick Each Year

Most Americans do not live in fear of contracting tuberculosis (TB). Every four years or so, our doctors prick our forearms to test for TB, but most of us never expect the test results will be positive. Yet, in many developing countries, TB remains a grave threat. World Tuberculosis Day, celebrated annually on March 24, aims to raise awareness about the ongoing fight against this deadly disease. This year's theme, "TB Elimination: Together We Can," puts the spotlight on the need for collaboration to ensure the global eradication of the disease.

  • Tuberculosis, a highly infectious, airborne illness, primarily affects the lungs. In 1993, TB was listed as one of the main causes of death worldwide, prompting the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency.
  • Two billion people in the world are carriers of TB bacteria. More than 9 million people becoming sick each year with "active" TB, which can be spread to others.
  • TB and HIV, usually go hand in hand. Because of the spread of HIV in the 1980s and 1990s, TB once again became much more prevalent. People with HIV have compromised immune systems -- making TB much easier to catch and harder to detect.

Fortunately, organizations all over the world are building strategies to help decrease the prevalence of TB in developing countries. Here are some of the easiest ways you can get involved:

  • By donating to the U.N. Foundation's Global Fund to help fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, you will be helping the people most at risk for developing these illnesses receive the care they need.
  • In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed an ongoing six point Stop TB Strategy to decrease TB prevalence by 2015. Between 1995 and 2008, 36 million TB patients were successfully treated and 8 million lives were saved by the WHO's initiatives. By donating to Stop TB, you are helping to support their ongoing work to eradicate tuberculosis.
  • Target TB, a U.K.-based nonprofit, hopes to see our world eventually free from TB. Target TB works in seven countries in Africa and Asia to help the most at-risk populations stay healthy and thrive economically. Supporters can get involved by making a donation, volunteering in the organization's England offices or using an online search engine that donates proceeds to the nonprofit.
  • No new medicines have been introduced to treat tuberculosis in over 40 years. In response, the TB Alliance is trying to accelerate the discovery and development of new drugs in hopes of ending the worldwide TB epidemic. With donations, this organization will be able to fund its ongoing tuberculosis research.