From the lab to the factory floor to the mine, businesses around the world are focusing their skills and resources on tackling one of the greatest health threats of our time: tuberculosis. Every year, more than 9 million people become sick with TB and more than 1.5 million die, mostly in developing countries.
The HIV epidemic poses even greater risks to people with TB because HIV’s damage to the immune system increases the likelihood that a latent TB infection will become active TB disease. Compounding the problem is an alarming surge in multi-drug resistant TB which can’t be cured with conventional drugs. Further, the tests to diagnose TB are archaic, inaccurate and slow and, consequently, TB goes vastly under-diagnosed.
In recent years, however, there has been significant progress. Fast, accurate diagnostic tests for use in poor, rural settings and vaccines and improved drugs are being developed. In 2010, a machine called Xpert MTB/RIF that quickly tests for TB and drug resistance was approved by the WHO and is being rolled out globally.
Critical areas for TB include widespread education to prevent its spread and the integration of HIV and TB programs in the workplace and community, a focus on multi-drug resistant TB and access to diagnostic tools and treatment. Stepped-up efforts will also target ending childhood TB deaths.
Why GBCHealth Focuses on TB
Given the airborne nature of TB, it is important for companies to protect their employees from this transmissible disease. In many industries, including mining and manufacturing, employees work and live in close quarters, increasing the likelihood of work-associated TB transmission.
Like HIV and malaria, those industries hit hard by TB experience absenteeism, reduced productivity and high health costs. When TB spreads within a community, a company can be gravely impacted, and on a larger scale, an unhealthy population inhibits a region’s economic growth.
The good news is that most forms of TB are preventable and curable, and at a low cost. As with HIV, the workplace is an ideal platform to address TB because of the need for daily, long-term treatment can make compliance a challenge.
Many GBCHealth members have long-standing workplace HIV programs. In light of the close connection between HIV and TB, a joint approach to addressing both diseases makes good business sense.
How GBCHealth Companies Make a Difference
GBCHealth member companies are leading by example, protecting their employees in the workplace through education and treatment outreach, taking prevention programs to the community and developing critical new diagnostic tools and treatments. They are also participating in massive media educational outreach campaigns. In South Africa, Anglo American has agreed to let its mines be clinical trial sites for TB vaccine candidates.
Read about award-winning TB programs: