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Spotlight: Tuberculosis and the ATS

Spotlight: Tuberculosis and the ATS

Originally founded by physicians caring for patients with tuberculosis (TB) as the American Sanitorium Association in 1905, the American Thoracic Society is committed to TB elimination, which remains central to the mission. Each year, more than 9.6 million new cases of tuberculosis are diagnosed and more than 1.6 million TB-related deaths occur globally.

As a medical society, the ATS supports TB research, and develops clinical practice guidelines to help in the diagnosis and treatment of TB, but the work to eliminate TB goes much further. Progress against TB requires multi-pronged and sustained campaigns. Improvements must be made in TB detection, treatment and prevention efforts. Research into the development and implementation of new tools is also critical, and thus the fight against TB is quite costly. As such, the ATS actively advocates for U.S. and international funding to control TB around the world.  From recognizing and raising awareness for World TB Day to commenting on policy with policy makers in governments worldwide, the ATS is working to eliminate TB from all sides.  

The ATS joined the World Health Organization in calling for robust global political commitments, including funding, to halt the TB pandemic, following the release of the WHO Global Tuberculosis Report 2018. The report found that for the fourth year in a row, TB remains the leading global infectious killer, even as TB deaths declined from 1.7 million in 2016 to 1.6 million in 2017. It also notes that drug resistant TB is an ongoing public health crisis, with only about one in four people with drug resistant TB being treated.

Last month, the ATS joined U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Todd Young (R-IN), and other senators in calling on the Trump administration to show leadership in global TB elimination efforts. In a bipartisan letter to President Trump, the Senators urged the Administration to provide robust commitments for TB control, research and development programs, during the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) first High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis.

ATS President-Elect James Beck, MD, and ATS Executive Director Karen Collishaw attended the historic meeting, held on Sept. 26, 2018.

“Following decades of neglect of this disease, the UN High-Level Meeting on TB provided a historic opportunity for countries, including the U.S., to commit to eliminating this disease through ambitious new targets for TB detection, treatment and prevention and funding for TB control and research and development programs,” said James Beck, ATS president-elect. The ATS stands ready to do our part to achieve these goals.”

By addressing TB medically and through public health policy, the ATS is a critical partner in the fight against tuberculosis.