Today marks the 29th World Tuberculosis Day, which is designed to raise public awareness of tuberculosis (TB) and efforts to eliminate the disease through its Stop TB campaign. Around one-third of the world’s population is infected by TB, and more than one and a half million people are killed by the illness each year, mostly in developing countries.
World Tuberculosis Day was first launched by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) in 1982, in order to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Dr Robert Koch’s discovery of the TB bacillus, the cause of TB.
This year, the campaign focuses on individuals around the world who have found new ways to stop TB. The idea is to fight against the disease through innovation in research and care. For example, UNITAID, an international facility for the purchase of drugs against HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, has urged pharmaceutical companies and major research institutes to accelerate the development of new drugs and treatments for the disease.
‘We will simply not reach the Millennium Development Goal of eliminating TB if we continue in a business-as-usual manner,” said Philippe Douste-Blazy, Chair of the UNITAID Executive Board.
Joined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Stop TB is a global movement which looks to accelerate global social and political action to prevent the unnecessary spread of the virus. The campaign hopes to halve the death rate caused by the disease by 2015 and has already made progress. TB infection rate is slowly falling and in 2008 the treatment rate exceeded the 85%target for the first time in more than a decade.
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