Countries around the world will come together tomorrow against tuberculosis, one of humanity’s most widespread and deadliest diseases. While 2007 marks the 25th anniversary of World TB Day, there are few reasons for people to celebrate. The total number of TB cases continues to grow, even though the disease is almost completely treatable. About 1.7 million people died from the disease last year alone.
Although the number of Americans who contract or die from TB is small, it is alarming that so few of us are educated about or support efforts to stop the pandemic. America must reevaluate its commitment to fighting the disease and pledge more funding to stop the spread of TB.
Around the world, about 8.8 million new cases of TB emerge every year – almost all of which are in developing countries. For a disease that has had both a vaccine and antibiotic treatment since the 1960s, it is disturbing that so many people continue to contract the disease and die from it. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that more than one-third of the world population has TB bacterium in their bodies. And while most people with the bacterium never get sick or die from it, if left untreated like it is in third-world countries because of the lack of medication and money, the bacterium progresses into a debilitating and deadly disease.
Unfortunately, neglect in past decades has allowed TB to develop a drug-resistant strain – XDR-TB. According to RESULTS – a nationwide organization dedicated to encouraging political mobilization towards infectious diseases like TB – poor treatment and monitoring of TB has led to the creation of the all-but untreatable XDR-TB. What’s worse is that XDR-TB cases continue to pop up around the world, and the strain is spreading so much that the World Health Organization declared an emergency in Africa.
Organizations like RESULTS have petitioned the government to dedicate more federal funding to fighting the disease in America and throughout the world. Specifically, RESULTS wants to add $300 million for the global TB crusade, which can help to fund both drugs and prevention programs around the world. However, funding for the pandemic cannot stop there. A major reason why so many people die from TB every year is because they concurrently suffer from AIDS, another disease that has long been neglected by the U.S. government.
However, the government throwing money at TB and AIDS patients around the world cannot alone stop the spread of such devastating diseases. More education-based support is needed, and further research is vital to find better treatments and preventions for these diseases destroying communities and countries around the world.
We at the University may be far removed geographically from any community suffering a TB pandemic, but the crisis can never be averted if people remove themselves emotionally from it. It is a sad truth that the afflicted often don’t have the power to fight for their own cure. Take the time tomorrow to read up on the disease and find ways to get involved in fighting it.
The deaths of millions at the hands of an easily treatable disease are a moral stain on those of us who have the power to do something, but choose not to.