World Tuberculosis Day occurs yearly on March24 to commemorate the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch astounded the scientific community by announcing to a small group of scientists at the University of Berlin’s Institute of Hygiene that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus.According to Koch’s colleague, Paul Ehrlich, “At this memorable session, Koch appeared before the public with an announcement which marked a turning-point in the story of a virulent human infectious disease. In clear, simple words Koch explained the aetiology of tuberculosis with convincing force, presenting many of his microscope slides and other pieces of evidence.”At the time of Koch’s announcement in Berlin, TB was raging through Europe and the Americas, causing the death of one out of every seven people. Koch’s discovery opened the way toward diagnosing and curing tuberculosis
World Tuberculosis Day is designed to build public awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis and efforts to eliminate the disease. Today tuberculosis causes the deaths of about 1.7 million people each year, mostly in the Third World. in 1982, on the one-hundredth anniversary of Robert Koch’s presentation, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) proposed that March 24 be proclaimed an official World TB Day. This was part of a year-long centennial effort by the IUATLD and the World Health Organization (WHO) under the theme “Defeat TB: Now and Forever.”World TB Day was not officially recognized as an annual occurrence by WHO’s World Health Assembly and the United Nations until over a decade later. In the fall of 1995, WHO and the Royal Netherlands Tuberculosis Foundation (KNCV) hosted the first World TB Day advocacy planning meeting in Den Haag, Netherlands; an event they would continue co-sponsor over the next few years.
in 1996, WHO, KNCV, the IUATLD and other concerned organizations joined to conduct a wide range of World TB Day activities. For World TB Day 1997, WHO held a news conference in Berlin during which WHO Director-General Hiroshi Nakajima declared that “DOTS is the biggest health breakthrough of this decade, according to lives we will be able to save.”WHO’s Global TB Programme Director, Dr. Arata Kochi, promised that, “Today the situation of the global TB epidemic is about to change, because we have made a breakthrough. It is the breakthrough of health management systems that makes it possible to control TB not only in wealthy countries, but in all parts of the developing world, where 95 percent of all TB cases now exist.”By 1998, nearly 200 organizations conducted public outreach activities on World TB Day.
During the World TB Day 1998 news conference in London, WHO for the first time identified the top twenty-two countries with the world’s highest TB rates. The next year, over 60 key TB advocates from 18 countries attended the three-day WHO/KNCV planning meeting for World TB Day 1999. U.S. President Bill Clinton marked World TB Day 2000 by administering the WHO-recommended DOTS treatment to patients at the Mahavir Hospital in Hyderabad, India.Today the Stop TB Partnership, a network of organizations and countries fighting TB (the IUATLD is a member and WHO houses the Stop TB Partnership secretariat in Geneva), organizes the Day to highlight the scope of the disease and how to prevent and cure it.