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House Passes Bill to Combat Tuberculosis Worldwide

On November 5, the House passed, by voice vote, a bill (H.R. 1567), the Stop Tuberculosis (TB) Now Act. The bill would authorize up to $400 million for FY2008 and up to $550 million for FY2009 for the World Health Organization and the Stop Tuberculosis Partnership. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also would receive up to $70 million in FY2008 and up to $100 million in FY2009 for global TB activities. The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the bill on July 31 (see The Source, 8/3/07). The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved its version of the bill on September 11 (see The Source, 9/14/07).

The bill notes that tuberculosis kills 1.6 million people per year, and states, “Recent research has shown that to invest in tuberculosis control abroad, where treatment and program costs are significantly cheaper than in the United States, would be a cost-effective strategy to reduce tuberculosis-related morbidity and mortality domestically.”

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the bill’s sponsor, said, “TB is the biggest infectious killer of young women in the world. In fact, TB kills more women worldwide than all causes of maternal mortality. As you know, tuberculosis is also the biggest killer of people with AIDS worldwide. Someone in the world is newly infected with TB every second, and TB counts for more than one-quarter of all preventable adult deaths in developing countries…Regular, or non-drug-resistant, TB is curable with drugs that cost just $16 in most developing countries. Cases of drug-resistant TB, however, can cost thousands of dollars to cure, with treatment that is far more difficult for patients and practitioners. Drug-resistant tuberculosis is a man-made problem and is caused by poor TB treatment. We, the global community, have the power to prevent drug-resistant TB and the power to treat and control regular TB, and yet, unfortunately, we have chosen not to do so by our inaction.”

Rep. John Boozman (R-AR) said, “…[T]he bill strongly encourages, if not directs, the president to ensure that the funds that would be provided under this bill will be transferred to the World Health Organization’s ‘Stop TB Partnership’ plan. Finally, the funding amounts in the bill have apparently been formulated using a calculation meant to reflect what the United States’ fair share might be in funding that international plan. Mr. Speaker, I recognize the determination of the supporters of this measure to do more to combat TB overseas. On a personal note, my mother was afflicted with tuberculosis when she was in her mid to late teens and was on her back for a year, just didn’t get out of bed. So we understand the importance of eradicating TB, not only worldwide, but in the United States.”

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