World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is marked on March 24 every year. But the truth is, we should be thinking about TB every day – especially in Africa.
The World TB Day theme for 2023 is “Yes! We can end TB!” – and this is quite a poignant statement – because, as simple as the slogan may sound at first glance, TB is preventable and curable.
Still, 10 million people fall ill with tuberculosis annually. It remains the world’s most infectious killer.
TB is the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent, with 25 percent of all TB cases and 25 percent of all deaths being in Africa.
Africa’s HIV burden causes further complications, as those infected with HIV are 18 times more likely to develop TB.
The conditions form a lethal paradox, both accelerating the development of the other 85 percent of TB patients in Africa are also HIV positive.
Despite the stark reality, however, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Funding for TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment services continues to fall far short of estimated global needs and the United Nations global target.”
Although the ambition to end TB is present in Africa’s most affected countries, the mobilisation of funds has not kept up.
In Africa, only 22 percent of the resources needed to provide adequate TB services are provided by governments and 44 percent remain unfunded. This drastically limits efforts to reduce the TB burden.
The WHO End TB Strategy, adopted in 2014, focuses on achieving universal access to patient-centred prevention and care, multisectoral action and innovation to eliminate the catastrophic cost for TB-affected households by 2030.
To quote the WHO, “Ending TB is not just a public health problem, but a development challenge and opportunity”.
There is the opportunity, for example, for private sector companies to extend their business into emerging markets by participating in the fight to end TB, and there is also an opportunity for governments to nurture healthier, more economically active populations.
The collective “we” is relevant here, however, in that no organisation can stop TB on its own.
Without diagnostics, there can be no treatment. High-quality diagnostics are the cornerstone of any clinician’s arsenal against disease.
But presently, primary care medical facilities in many developing nations have significant gaps in access to critical diagnostic tools.