Last week we observed World TB Day with the theme "Unite to End TB." HIV/AIDS and TB researchers, scientists and advocates once came together to solve the riddles of co-infection. As a global health community, we now have another opportunity to unite around global goals to build better health systems and eliminate the most dangerous infectious diseases of our time.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the lead U.S. Government agency for international TB care, is working closely with the global TB community to expand and improve the quality of TB diagnosis, care, and treatment programs aimed at reducing TB-related mortality and preventing the development of drug-resistant TB.
A giant ribbon will not hang in front of the White House. No marches will be held. The lights on the Empire State building will not shine a special color. Instead, March 24th - World TB Day -is just like most any other day. Little attention will be paid to the fact that tuberculosis is now the number one infectious disease killer in the world.
I have erred in spending nearly three decades in what I see now as the "TB rut:" 1. Failing to imagine far better tools for diagnosis and treatment, 2. Allowing immediate cost issues to overwhelm the potential and real benefits of better treatment, and 3. Failing to engage patients and communities in TB elimination efforts.
An epidemic sweeping across southern and eastern Africa reminds me of a hard truth in public health: diseases thrive in places where there is inequity and lack of opportunity. That epidemic -- HIV among adolescent girls and young women -- is threatening to roll back many gains made in the fight against HIV in the past 15 years.