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Majority of TB sufferers cannot access cure: UN health agency

Majority of TB sufferers cannot access cure: UN health agency

Less than onethird of tuberculosis sufferers can currently access a cure that represents the best chance for controlling the global TB epidemic, according to a new report from the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).

Findings in the report, released today by WHO in Geneva, show that a strategy called DOTS – effective in curing 90 per cent of TB cases – is reaching only 27 per cent of the world’s TB patients. Public health officials estimate that an additional $300 million is needed annually to treat those for whom the treatment is presently not available.

TB is a contagious disease that spreads through the air. Nearly one third of the world’s population is infected with the TB bacillus and 2 million people die from it each year.

The WHO review found that governments from 22 low-income nations in which 80 per cent of TB sufferers live are already meeting 70 per cent – or $700 million – of the annual cost of treating and controlling the disease. "Clearly, even the poorest countries are deeply committed to fighting this disease, and the international community must respond just as vigorously," says J.W. Lee, Director of WHO's “Stop TB” programme.

The DOTS cure, developed by WHO, is considered extremely cost-effective and has five key components. These are government commitment to sustained TB control; case detection by sputum microscopy; standardized treatment of six to eight months; a regular supply of essential TB drugs; and a standardized reporting system. To be properly implemented, a regular supply of drugs, equipped laboratories and trained health professionals must be available.

The WHO report, "Global Tuberculosis," Control, is the sixth annual summary of the status of the fight against TB issued by WHO since the TB epidemic was declared a global health emergency in 1993.