Even in the midst of the escalating COVID-19 crisis, it’s hard to ignore the toll that TB takes each year. Every day, TB infects over 30,000 and is responsible for over 4,000 deaths, making it the world’s deadliest infectious disease. This past Tuesday, people from across the globe came together to commemorate World Tuberculosis Day 2020 to raise awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB and to ramp up efforts to end TB.
Amidst the conversations on TB, there was a general acknowledgement that the global community must work together to respond effectively to the emerging threat posed by COVID-19. While medical experts are still learning about COVID-19, evidence suggests that people with TB will be among the most vulnerable. TB affects many of the same people at risk of COVID-19; people with underlying autoimmune diseases or chronic respiratory illnesses, and people who can’t afford or don’t have access to health care.
In recognition of World TB Day, here are highlights of a number of innovative public-private partnerships which members of the Private Sector Constituency to the Global Fund have initiated to tackle TB across the globe.
In India, BD, a global medical technology company, is working with USAID to address the lack of access to reliable drug-susceptibility testing to combat drug-resistant forms of TB. Drug-susceptibility testing means testing to find out if a person has drug-resistant TB. On average, it is estimated that 50% of those in need of second-line drug-susceptibility testing in high burden countries do not receive it.
To better understand the barriers to patient access to this life-saving testing, BD and USAID formed a multi-sector partnership called STRIDES (Strengthen TB Resistance Testing and Diagnostic Systems). They are working together with the National TB Elimination Program in India to strengthen liquid culture and drug susceptibility testing across all 55 labs in the national network to improve detection and appropriate treatment for multi-drug resistant TB patients across the country. This collaboration is an important part of BD’s broader global health work.
For Cepheid, a molecular diagnostics company, 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of its first tuberculosis test. Since then, they have revolutionized TB diagnostics with the development of the GeneXpert Systems, which reduced the time it takes to diagnose a patient from weeks to hours. The test also detects multi-drug resistant TB, which allows for patients to get on the correct medication immediately. Cepheid worked with FIND and Rutgers to introduce this game-changing TB diagnostic.
A committed partner in the fight against TB for nearly two decades, Johnson & Johnson is doing its part to combat TB across a variety of platforms. J&J is part of the Ending Workplace TB initiative, which is aimed at engaging major businesses in the fight against TB by rolling out awareness, detection and treatment programs to reach millions of workers, their families and the broader community. Working with the Staying Alive Foundation, they have also supported the inclusion of TB messaging in a youth-focused “edutainment” campaign in India, a TV series called MTV Nishedh, which aims to raise awareness and reduce stigma around critical health and social issues facing young people. For World TB Day, they released a statement in solidarity with all those fighting TB and COVID-19.
The Global Fund Private Sector Constituency is a group of companies that are passionate about ending the three diseases, bringing a business voice to the work of the Global Fund. The constituency helps improve the Global Fund’s governance and shape the strategy of the Fund. Member companies contribute in many ways to the success of the Global Fund beyond purely making financial contributions, with pro-bono services, direct and indirect support for strengthening health care systems, and through research and development and direct supply of health products.