World TB Day helps raise awareness
March 23 was World TB Day. World TB Day commemorates the announcement, 100 years ago, of the discovery of the germ that causes tuberculosis. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the devastating health and economic consequences of TB that still plague the world.
TB has long been associated with poverty. It creates poverty by robbing those with active TB disease of the ability to work or care for their families. Ultimately, it takes the life of two million people every year. It is the world’s number one killer of young adult women. TB is also the result of poverty. TB infection becomes active when the body is stressed by malnutrition and a lack of sufficient clean water. One third of the world’s population is infected with TB. A large number of these people live on less than a dollar a day.
But TB is not only a health and economic crisis for developing countries where it is prevalent. With our mobile, global society, it is as close as a seven-hour plane ride across the ocean or a boat or bus ride across the country’s borders. It is even as close as a trip home with our soldiers from Afghanistan and Pakistan where TB rates are some of the highest in the world.
In the United States there are an estimated 15 million people infected with tuberculosis. The number of cases of active TB disease in Colorado increased almost 50 percent between 2000 and 2001. This is a significant one-year increase over the yearly average for the past five years.
There is a detailed global plan to stop TB using low cost medication from a new global TB drug facility as well as a global fund for AIDS, TB and malaria, which was established last year by the United Nations. This year only a fraction of these efforts were funded.
The budget proposed for next year by President Bush further decreases funding for these and other critical global health problems. Although $400 billion is proposed for defense spending, less than $200 million has been designated for defense against TB.
World TB Day offers a unique opportunity to effectively address this devastating disease. We have a way, but we lack the means. Can we create the awareness and will in our country’s decision-makers to do their part to adequately fund international eradication of this disease? Next year’s World TB Day could be another dismal report or it could be a celebration of real gains in removing TB from the planet.
Betsy Bowie, RN
Colorado TB Elimination Advisory Committee
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