Thursday, March 24 was World Tuberculosis Day, one of eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization. This year’s theme, “Unite to End Tuberculosis,” called for “greater collaboration within and across governments, and with partners from civil society, communities, researchers, the private sector and development agencies,” according to WHO.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration has proposed cutting tuberculosis funding – a dangerous, misguided step that would undermine the global health leadership role the United States has traditionally taken on.

Tuberculosis recently surpassed HIV as the leading cause of death from infectious disease worldwide, killing more than 1.5 million people in 2014.

While tuberculosis is curable, inappropriate treatment has led to the proliferation of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, which has rendered many current first-line drugs obsolete. If left unchecked, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis could erase decades of progress in global tuberculosis control.

To address this rising concern, the White House released in December 2015 a National Action Plan for Combating Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis. The plan describes the United States’ commitment to “work domestically and internationally to contribute to the prevention, detection, and control of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis” and the “shared global vision of a world free of tuberculosis.”

The plan’s three goals are (1) to strengthen the capacity for domestic health systems to combat multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, (2) to collaborate with the international community to improve the ability for the global health infrastructure to respond to outbreaks of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, and (3) to accelerate the development of novel drugs and therapies that treat all forms of drug-resistant tuberculosis.

However, while the Obama administration begins to implement this national strategy, it is also proposing to cut tuberculosis funding at the U.S. Agency for International Development by 19 percent to a mere $191 million. In contrast, the President’s budget request includes approximately $4.7 billion for HIV/AIDS – a close to 25-fold difference.

This disparity also persists in funding allocations at The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Global Fund is indisputably the world’s largest source of tuberculosis financing, and yet only spends 15 percent of its grant money on the disease – compared to 52 percent for HIV and 28 percent for malaria.

Fortunately, members of Congress from both parties have consistently rejected these cuts to the tuberculosis budget. Rep. Chris Smith has stated that the cuts would “[exacerbate] efforts to address, mitigate, and protect from worldwide epidemics – including TB, the top infectious killer worldwide.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown echoed similar concerns: “TB continues to kill and won’t relent without our attention and resources.”

WHO said there’s a shortfall of $1.6 billion per year needed to fully treat all tuberculosis patients worldwide. The United States can take many steps to help eradicate the disease by investing in healthcare delivery systems, administering proven and effective therapies and funding new drug development – cutting funding is certainly not one of these steps.

Steve Chen is a junior biology and global health major. He can be reached at