UN-backed $2 billion response plan to contain TB launched

22 June 2007

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and the Stop TB Partnership today launched a $2.15 billion two-year programme to save over 100,000 lives.

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and the Stop TB Partnership today launched a $2.15 billion two-year programme to save over 100,000 lives.

The new initiative lays out steps to prevent, treat and control drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) and multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

If fully implemented, the plan, which sets out measures to allow laboratories in countries with high levels of the disease to increase their detection of MDR-TB cases, will lead to a ten-fold surge in the number of XDR-TB and MDR-TB patients who will be treated and cured under WHO guidelines.

It also underscores the urgency with which basic tuberculosis control and investment in crucial areas – such as bolstering diagnostic laboratories, increasing infection control and surveillance and stepping up funding for research – are needed.

“XDR-TB is a threat to the security and stability of global health,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. “This response plan identifies costs, milestones and priorities for health services that will continue to have an impact beyond its two-year time line.”

The plan, called the Global MDR-TB and XDR-TB Response Plan 2007-2008, also jumpstarts efforts towards reaching a 2015 goal of providing access to drugs and testing to all patients affected by these two disease types, potentially rescuing the lives of 1.2 million people.

XDR-TB first came to the world’s attention in March 2006 when researchers reported that emerging global threat posed by highly-resistant strains of the disease, and six months later, there was a spate of cases resulting in over 50 deaths of “virtually untreatable” cases in an area of South Africa with a high prevalence of HIV.

Meanwhile, last month, an air passenger from the United States infected with XDR-TB heightened concerns about the tuberculosis epidemic.

“We have sounded the alarm on the potential for an untreatable XDR-TB epidemic,” said Mario Raviglione, Director of the WHO Stop TB Department. “Today we issue our response on behalf of all patients and communities whose lives are most at risk.”

The initiative is an ambitious one and must be “fully supported if we are to keep a stranglehold on drug-resistant TB,” he added.

A key element of the scheme is a steady supply of quality drugs to treat tuberculosis in underserved countries from the Global Drug Facility, which, since its establishment in 2006, distributes more anti-tuberculosis drugs free of charge to poor countries than any other group.

 

♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.