Number of Afghan patients treated for TB doubled since 2001: UN health agency

Number of Afghan patients treated for TB doubled since 2001: UN health agency

The number of patients being treated for tuberculosis in Afghanistan has more than doubled since 2001, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) announced today, saying this could be the result of a dramatic improvement in the detection of cases.

In 2006, WHO figures show that 25,443 people, of whom 16,538 were women, were being treated for tuberculosis. In 2001, the number of cases detected and treated was slightly over 9,500.

The growing availability of treatment is coupled with a decline in the spread of TB, with WHO saying that the number of new cases every year has been nearly halved over the last two decades.

The agency also estimate that there were over 40,000 new cases of the disease last year, and 65 per cent of those newly infected were women between 15 and 45 years old, a highly vulnerable group.

These figures come on the heels of World TB Day which was commemorated on 24 March.

“Whilst we have seen tuberculosis cases dramatically cut over the past few years, the Afghan Government need to continue to engage donors, partners and civil society organizations to fund and fully support tuberculosis control activities,” said Dr. Riyad Ahmed Musa, WHO’s representative for Afghanistan.

The agency called on the Government and international donors to fund the national plan to prevent the disease’s spread and increase detection and treatment.

“We have achieved a lot, but we must not become complacent and we must ensure that we have the financial support to prevent the progress we have made being reversed,” he added.

WHO considers the Directly Observed Treatment Short (DOTS) courses – a treatment plan which identifies tuberculosis cases and then treats them by closely monitoring patients’ medication intake for six to eight months – the best strategy to combat the disease. DOTS has now been fully integrated into Afghanistan’s primary health care system and covers the entire country.