AMSTERDAM – Addressing the threats that tuberculosis poses to global health security and economic stability is the highest prioritiy in the U.S. government’s global TB response, U.S. Agency for International Development’s chief of staff William Steiger said here on Sunday. Drug-resistant forms of TB account for one in four of antimicrobial resistant infections, Steiger said, demanding increased urgency in combating strains of the disease that are resistant to the first, most effective, and least toxic treatments.
Failing to adequately address tuberculosis on a global scale will cost the world economy more than $300 billion in lost productivity, Steiger said. That’s on top of medical costs associated with treatment, which can cost upwards of $1 million for one case of multidrug-resistant TB in the U.S. Globally, treating MDR-TB places a substantial burden on health systems and Health ministry budgets, another argument for accelerating efforts to prevent drug resistance, he said.
Driving stigma, discrimination, isolation, and other impacts that disproportionately affect women and their economic wellbeing, Steiger said, TB is a major barrier to women’s empowerment. On average, patients with drug susceptible TB miss three to four months of work, often resulting in lost income, and lost employment, Steiger said, an “extraordinary drag on productivity at the household and community levels.”
The voices of women and other affected communities along with the health professionals who treat them must be present at the upcoming UN High Level Meeting on Ending TB, Steiger said, adding that efforts also are underway to get high-level U.S. government officials to the September 26 meeting. Expressions of political will to end the epidemic at the High Level Meeting must be coupled with financial commitments, Steiger said.
Seventeen years ago, the first UN High Level Meeting on HIV led to creation of the Global Fund to Fight HIV, TB and Malaria, and inspired the creation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, Steiger said. “This represents the same moment for TB,” he said.