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October 28, 2015

“In 1993, the World Health Organization declared TB a global emergency. The new data in the WHO’s 2015 Global Tuberculosis Report show that all the promises made to end the TB epidemic since 1993 have been hollow. In 2014, 9.6 million people fell ill with TB, and 1.5 million died of it, making TB the world’s leading infectious killer—surpassing HIV. We have made no progress in reducing the incidence of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), with nearly half a million people developing MDR-TB in 2014, only one-fourth of them detected, and even fewer started on treatment.

We’re in this dire situation because the vigorous community response, massive research effort, and political leadership that distinguished the response to HIV are utterly absent from TB. In the fight to end HIV, we’re now saving 15 million lives per year and averting millions of new infections thanks to a three-decades-long community mobilization, multibillion-dollar research effort, and political commitment to ending the HIV epidemic. In TB research, we invested the bare minimum required to develop a few new tools, but not enough to distribute them to people in need. We trained a generation of scientists in TB research, but then didn’t provide the funding required for them to conduct the truly transformational research required to end the TB epidemic. We called for new research and efforts to improve the detection and treatment of pediatric TB, but then failed to fund them. Global leaders’ half-hearted response has enabled TB to overtake AIDS as the world’s leading cause of death from an infectious disease.

TB is preventable and curable, but unless we act now, it will continue to sicken and kill millions, increasingly drug-resistant forms of TB will continue to spread, and we will continue to spend billions of dollars in a failing effort to control it. As the top funder of TB research, the only large country within reach of eliminating TB, and a leader in the global TB response, the United States must commit to ending this epidemic. The White House has announced a plan to combat drug-resistant TB. We urge President Obama to adopt and fund it.”

—Mark Harrington, executive director, Treatment Action Group

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