Tuberculosis—good progress, but not enough

23 March 2020

Tuberculosis (TB) is the 10th leading cause of death worldwide, the worldwide top infectious killer and the leading cause of death among people living with HIV.

The good news is that TB is both preventable and curable, and countries have committed to end TB by 2030. The set of milestones committed to in the 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS included a 75% reduction from 2010 in TB deaths among people living with HIV by 2020.

The bad news is that, in 2018, 10 million people fell ill with TB worldwide and 1.5 million people lost their lives to the disease, including 251 000 people living with HIV. While there has been a 60% reduction in deaths from TB among people living with HIV since 2000, the world is not on track to reach the 75% reduction by 2020.

As the world is commemorating World TB Day on 24 March in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical to remember that we need to sustain services for addressing TB epidemics and TB/HIV coinfections globally. There is still a US$ 3.3 billion yearly funding shortfall for TB prevention and care.

It is also timely to remember that programmes already in place to combat TB and other major infectious diseases can be leveraged to make the response to COVID-19 more rapid and effective. However, the need for an urgent response to TB, HIV or COVID-19 should not mean that human rights, autonomy and confidentiality are not respected.

The role of communities remains essential, as does the resilience of health system, for ensuring innovative people-centred and community-based and community-led approaches for service delivery, including differentiated service delivery models, digital health and innovative tools to diagnose TB infection and empower people living with HIV-associated TB to manage their treatment and care. Investments in systems for health, including communities, already made will make a real difference in the battle against COVID-19. 

Global trends in the estimated number of deaths

Estimated number of deaths graph