Letter to the Editor: More than numbers, it’s about lives saved

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To the Editor:

40×22. 30×22. These are not math equations or measurements. Rather, they are shorthand for what the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on Tuberculosis (TB) ambitiously set as targets back in September 2018. 40×22 represented the goal of providing an additional 40 million people TB treatment by 2022, and 30×22 represented the goal of providing 30 million people TB preventive therapy by 2022. Why is this important today (given that it’s now 2022)?

Thursday, March 24th (was) World Tuberculosis Day. On this day, even in 2022, we need to take note of the fact that approximately 1.5 million people are killed by this horrible disease each year. It is also important to note that global efforts to eradicate tuberculosis and other preventable diseases, led by groups like the Global Fund, have made enormous progress over the years. The Global Fund alone has saved 44 million lives since 2002.

Unfortunately, that progress is now in jeopardy. When the world shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it disrupted access to diagnostics and treatments for tuberculosis. One million fewer people were treated for tuberculosis in 2020 than in 2019 and, for the first time in a decade, annual tuberculosis deaths actually rose.

This must serve as a wake-up call. Members of Congress, including Senator Todd Young and Senator Mike Braun, must go on the record in support of a $2 billion per year pledge from the US at the Global Fund replenishment conference this year so it can continue its vitally important work of preventing disease and saving lives.

In an era when most people that I know shy away from things that look like math, we can make statements like 40×22 and 30×22 a thing of the past. As someone that has volunteered and worked within the healthcare industry, I implore you to contact our elected officials. Together, we can make our voices heard and help put an end to tuberculosis and other preventable diseases by ensuring everyone, everywhere has access to lifesaving tests and treatments.

Matthew Pope

Greenfield