As we approach the first-ever UN high-level meeting on tuberculosis, set for September 26, Congress has issued a very clear bipartisan call for strong U.S. engagement, as well as an expanded U.S. commitment to fight the disease, which is now the world’s biggest infectious disease killer.
A stunning number of senators and representatives have signed letters to the president – 43 in the Senate and 106 in the House – calling for action to address TB both within the US and globally:
“We write to ask you to commit to meaningful U.S. engagement around this important event, and to ensure that it results in the urgent investments and actions needed to defeat TB.”
The letters were initiated by Senators Brown (D-OH) and Young (R-IN) in the Senate, who issued a press statement about the letter, and by Reps Engel (D-NY), Green (D-TX) and Young (R-AK) in the House of Representatives. RESULTS volunteers and allied organizations played a critical role in urging members to sign on.
The letters state that the UN high-level meeting on TB “could galvanize much faster progress against this deadly disease. In order to achieve this progress, we must ensure that the meeting leads to concrete actions addressing real needs.”
“It is in the interest of the U.S. that this High-Level Meeting succeed. The U.S. should remain a strong global leader in providing funding for effective TB programs and research, and not just sustain but expand its commitment. We stand ready to work with you to leverage the unprecedented opportunities for faster progress against TB presented by the High-Level Meeting,” the members of Congress state.
The letters from Congress note that once a person with TB receives appropriate treatment, the disease rapidly becomes non-infectious. They call for action to find the estimated 4 million people who become sick with TB but are tragically “missed” every year and go untreated.
Fortunately, USAID funding is making a real difference by building capacity in countries to find these “missing millions.” For example, in Zimbabwe an estimated 34,000 people develop TB every year, but mobile TB screening vans are helping to take services right to those in need, free-of-charge. Nigeria has the largest TB epidemic in Africa, with only 24% treatment coverage, but USAID-funded programs are training health care workers to visit the homes of every person who is diagnosed with TB and identify people who may have the disease.
So far, 43 Heads of State and Prime Ministers have signed up to attend the meeting and the list is still growing. They will sign a declaration of commitment, now in final form, and make presentations about how specifically they will implement it in their countries. Japan and South Africa are co-facilitators of the meeting, and the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, will be attending. Leaders from civil society and people personally impacted by TB, as well as Bill Gates, will be speaking. You will be able to watch the event live online HERE on September 26.
Take action: Write a letter to the editor using our template in the Action Center. Be sure to personalize the letter and also thank your members of Congress who signed the letters.