Stop TB Partnership

Statement for World TB Day by Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership 24 March 2011


World TB Day, March 24, commemorates the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch astounded the scientific community by announcing that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus. At the time of Koch's announcement in Berlin, TB was raging through Europe and the Americas, causing the death of one out of every seven people. Koch's discovery opened the way towards diagnosing and curing TB.

In our time World TB Day is a day for remembering this great discovery and also for all kinds of group activities to raise awareness about TB around the world - rallies, races, speeches, performances.

On this World TB Day I wish to propose an activity which you can do alone, one in which I hope all our partners and friends will participate.

Please find a quiet place and time for some moments of silence.

What I have in mind is different than the traditional moment of silence for honouring the dead. These should be quiet moments during which we think about the people whom it is our mission to help, and also those we have failed to help.

Yes, there will be thoughts of anguish and sadness about all the people - enough to populate a city - who died needlessly since the last World TB Day. The vast majority of them could have been cured if they had been reached with appropriate care. They could have gone on to nurture their families, make new friendships, continue experiencing life's beauties, strive to fulfil their dreams.

But it is totally appropriate that we experience a moment of joy for the millions of people who did get treatment, recovered, and are still among us. And a moment of pride, too, for the huge impact we can have on the lives of women, men, children and whole communities by doing the work we do to fight TB.

Since March 2010 the world has confronted many forms of devastation - earthquakes, tsunamis, wars. We were helpless to prevent these debacles and had to stand by watching them wreak destruction, hoping to mitigate the suffering of people caught in their wake.

Today we should reflect on this question: How can the world stand by and let all the deaths from TB continue, when they could be prevented? How can we allow people to die of a disease that can be readily cured through a treatment that costs less than a pair of blue jeans? This thought should provoke our outrage, and drive us to work harder and more closely in partnership against TB and do our best to move towards eliminating TB.

I truly believe TB will be eliminated, maybe not in my lifetime, but for sure in my eight-year-old son's. There is an incredible energy in the TB community. Let us have our moment of silence, reflect and then move on to work for making TB a disease of the past!

If we work together, we trust each other and, if we can channel this energy in the right direction, we can do fantastic things!