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Controlling tuberculosis in the jet age

As op-ed commentator Richard E. Chaisson wrote recently, "despite the devastation that TB wreaks, it still is not a global health priority" ("Tuberculosis, the forgotten killer," March 24).

Just as it was necessary to eradicate smallpox and combat polio in order to protect ourselves, we also need to step up global efforts to control tuberculosis. That's because any TB case is one sneeze away from spreading to someone else, and in the jet age that puts us all at risk.

Until recently, it took five or six weeks to determine if a TB case was drug resistant. But today tests costing a few dollars are available that can determine drug resistance in a matter of hours. There is no excuse for the fact that fewer than one in five people suffering from drug-resistant TB receive appropriate treatment.

We need to fully fund the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, so that every TB case can be diagnosed for drug resistance and every patient can be treated with appropriate drugs.

U.S. investments in the Global Fund are matched two-to-one by other donors, making it among the most effective investments people can make in global health — and, by extension, in America's health as well.

Joel Rubinstein, San Francisco

The writer is an activist in RESULTS, a grass-roots citizens' action group that mobilizes public opinion to fight poverty and hunger.

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