The world lights up for World Tuberculosis Day

Landmarks around the world will have a red glow on March 24 in support of World Tuberculosis Day, which draws attention to the threat of TB, a preventable but deadly infectious bacterial disease that harms the lungs.

Through effective diagnosis and treatment, 53 million lives were saved between 2000 and 2016, and the number of TB-related deaths continues to drop by around 2 percent each year, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization.

Building shining red and reflected in water at night (Stop TB Partnership)
The National Congress in Brasília, Brazil, on World TB Day 2017 (Stop TB Partnership)

World TB Day commemorates Dr. Robert Koch’s 1882 announcement that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis. His discovery allowed the scientific community to begin diagnosing and curing TB.

Thirty-one cities in 13 countries participated in 2017’s “Light up the world for TB” campaign. Landmarks in Brazil, Pakistan and the United States are among the sites that were lit up. The Stop TB Partnership and the World Health Organization lead the global effort.

Red water spouting up from a lake against a black night sky (Stop TB Partnership)
The Jet d’Eau of the Lac Léman of Geneva, Switzerland, on World TB Day 2017 (Stop TB Partnership)

Despite significant progress by scientists each year, TB is still one of the top causes of death worldwide.

The disease is the leading cause of death among those living with HIV, who are 20 to 30 times more likely to succumb to the airborne disease than those without HIV. The United States — through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) — works to combat this by screening people living with HIV for tuberculosis and in 2017 trained 250,000 health care professionals globally.

The World Health Organization has set an ambitious goal for the global community: to reduce TB deaths by 95 percent between 2015 and 2035 and to cut new cases by 90 percent during the same time period. “At WHO, we will be moving with urgency, as a united force,” said Dr. Tereza Kasaeva, director of the World Health Organization’s Global TB Programme.

The first United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on TB will occur in November in New York. It follows last November’s inaugural Global Ministerial Conference to End TB, when leaders and activists from 120 countries gathered in Moscow and promised a new global commitment to do more to combat the disease.

This article was written by freelance writer Maeve Allsup.