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UN and partners urge greater efforts to tackle drug-resistant tuberculosis

UN and partners urge greater efforts to tackle drug-resistant tuberculosis

On the eve of World TB Day, the United Nations and its partners today called for greater efforts to meet the goal of diagnosing and treating one million people with multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) between 2011 and 2015.

“Many countries have made progress, but despite the recent scale up in efforts, the world needs to do much more to get care to all MDR-TB patients who need it,” says Margaret Chan, Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO). “We cannot allow MDR-TB to spread unchecked.”

Leaving MDR-TB – a form of TB that fails to respond to standard first-line drugs – untreated increases the risk of spread of drug-resistant strains of TB, according to a joint news release issued by WHO, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Stop TB Partnership.

In 2009, WHO reported that 9.4 million people became ill with TB and 1.7 million died, including 380,000 people with HIV-associated TB. There were some 440,000 cases of MDR-TB and 150,000 deaths in 2008, the latest year for which estimates are available.

Ahead of the Day, marked annually on 24 March, WHO released a report today on progress in the MDR-TB response in the countries with the highest burden of drug-resistant TB. The agency estimates that there will be more than 2 million new cases of MDR-TB between 2011 and 2015.

Programmes financed by the Global Fund and following WHO treatment standards are expected to diagnose and treat about 200,000 people for MDR-TB by 2015 – a fourfold increase from the 50,000 patients who are currently undergoing treatment.

While it is anticipated that the Global Fund will provide 84 per cent of all global investments in TB in 2011, there will need to be a scaling up of both domestic and international resources to make further progress in the fight against TB.

“MDR-TB is a threat to all countries as it is difficult and expensive to treat. Unless we make an extraordinary effort to tackle this problem our ability to finance and secure continued progress against TB in general will be threatened,” says Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund.

“It is time for countries with rapidly growing economies and a heavy burden of MDR-TB to step up their commitment and financing for their own MDR-TB programmes,” notes Jorge Sampaio, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Stop TB.

“Several have the capacity to show new leadership on South-South cooperation and aid to neighbouring countries that are also affected,” he adds.

Since 2009, the 23 countries most heavily affected by TB drug resistance have nearly doubled their budgets for MDR-TB. From 2002 through 2010, Global Fund-financed TB programmes around the world have provided treatment to 7.7 million people and saved the lives of 4.1 million.

“The Global Fund’s success can be measured in the number of lives that have been saved through care provided by the TB programmes it finances,” says Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership.

“Every TB patient should have access to proper care. We advocate on behalf of millions of patients worldwide and our strong partners such as WHO and the Global Fund. To reach a million people with effective care for MDR-TB over the next five years, we will need to work closely with all partners, especially with affected communities.”