Tuberculosis (TB) is the world’s top infectious killer. Globally, in 2021, 1.64 million lost their lives to this communicable disease according to the according to the World Health Organization’s 2022 Global Tuberculosis Report. In the same year an estimated 10.6 million people fell ill with tuberculosis (TB), with the WHO African region accounting for 2.46 million cases. Of those who fell ill with TB, 4.2 millionpeople were not detected or officially notified and did not receive the care they needed,denying them theirright to health and wellbeing. The intersection between gender, poverty and other social determinants of health contributes to an increased vulnerability and exposure to TB.
Yet, TB is a preventable and curable disease. An estimated 74 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2021. Ending TB by 2030 is one of the health-related targets of the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To reach this goal, the world has recognised that progress must be expedited while considering the setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes preparedness for the introduction and scale-up of technological breakthroughs for TB including rapid diagnosis, new treatments,and vaccine development, while adoptinggender-equitable support packages.
Gender and TB
Gender plays a significant role in determining health outcomes, including equitable access to quality TB prevention and care. People of different genders face different challenges and thus require tailored solutions to access the care they need. Globally, in 2021, more than half of people with TB were men (56.5% of all TB cases in 2021 compared to 32.5% among adult women and 11% among children); and two out of every three cases of TB which go undiagnosed or not notified, are in men.
The global TB community recognises the need to transform the approaches to TB response in order to overcome barriers to TB prevention and care and toultimately reduce the overall TB burden and transmission, for all. Ending TB therefore, requiresinnovative and comprehensive rights-based, people-centred, approaches that are responsive to gender needs and account for the various factorsimpacting the progress of the TB response.
New evidence is needed to inform policies that are gender-responsive and effectively actioned to improve male access to quality TB care; to reduce the number of people with TB-related ill health and deaths; to reduce transmission to the wider community, including to women and girls; and to reduce devastating associated costs for those with TB and their families.
The LIGHT research programme aims to do exactly this.