Friday, March 24, 2006

World Tuberculosis Day, March 24th

Two billion people in the world, one third of the world population, are infected with TB bacilli. Almost two million people die each year, and 5,000 people die each day from the disease.

If you look at this article prepared by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs, (an organization designed to "support the State Department's initiatives," and influence "media, government officials, opinion leaders, and the general public in more than 140 countries around the world") you would think that Tuberculosis is just a problem outside of the United States, and mostly a disease closely associated with AIDS in Africa. When in reality, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tuberculosis is a problem that is growing in the United States, right now.

"Starting in the 1940s, scientists discovered the first of several medicines that are now used to treat TB. As a result, TB slowly began to decrease in the United States. But in the 1970s and early 1980s, the country let its guard down and TB control efforts were neglected. As a result, between 1985 and 1992, the number of TB cases increased. However, with increased funding and attention to the TB problem, we have had a steady decline in the number of persons with TB since 1992. But TB is still a problem; more than 14,000 cases were reported in 2003 in the United States."
Now, I don't think that we should pay attention to this problem just because it is a health problem in the United States. I do think that one of the techniques of political rhetoric is to dehumanized an issue by making it seem far away... a problem with which you and I will probably never have to come face-to-face. That does not make it a non-problem.

Currently, Tuberculosis is more of a threat to human health than Bird Flu, and it is treatable. But, it is becoming less treatable. There are Multi-drug Resistant Strains of Tuberculosis, and these strains have been found in the United States.

World Tuberculosis Day probably won't make a huge difference in the fight against Tuberculosis, and some might argue that the money spent on advertising and promotion would be better used in treatment, but awareness is a major step in prevention, and prevention is better than treatment.

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