Tuberculosis (TB) remains an enormous global health problem. There are 8-9 million new cases and 2 million deaths from TB annually. Despite the overwhelming burden of disease, the basic principles of care for persons with, or suspected of having, TB are the same worldwide: a diagnosis should be established promptly and accurately, standardized treatment regimens of proven efficacy should be used together with appropriate treatment support and supervision, the response to treatment should be monitored, and the essential public health responsibilities must be carried out. As an approach to improving the care of patients with TB, an evidence-based document, the International Standards for Tuberculosis Care (ISTC) was developed and has been endorsed by more than 30 international and national agencies. This special report introduces the ISTC and discusses the fact that accurate diagnosis and effective treatment are not only essential for good patient care, they are the key elements in the public health response to TB and are the cornerstone of TB control. With the recent emergence of extensively drug-resistant TB, there is an urgent need to ensure globally that standards of TB care are based on rigorous scientific findings, are clear and well understood, and are accessible to and applied by all types of healthcare providers in all corners of the world.