In anticipation of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, commemorated on March 24, this Lancet editorial examines TB control and elimination efforts in 2012 and beyond. “Tuberculosis killed 1.45 million people in 2010 and about 500,000 people have drug-resistant disease,” the editorial states, adding, “Despite a woeful funding gap in 2012 of $1.7 billion, tuberculosis incidence is falling (from 9.4 million in 2009 to 8.8 million in 2010).” The editorial notes, “Ten new or repurposed tuberculosis drugs are in Phase II or III trials, which hopefully will reduce treatment times to about four months, compared with present multidrug-resistant tuberculosis regimens lasting 18-24 months,” adding, “Faster treatment will greatly improve adherence, reduce transmission, and cut costs.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday during a visit to the Institute of Respiratory Medicine in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, “urged countries to step up their efforts to prevent tuberculosis (TB)” and “called for ‘intensified global solidarity to ensure that the children and people of all the countries get medical support, so that they can breathe with health,'” the U.N. News Centre reports. Speaking ahead of World Tuberculosis Day on March 24, Ban said “that countries have the means to prevent unnecessary deaths, but need to implement policies that not only raise awareness about the issue but provide accessible health care to their citizens,” according to the news service. In 2011, 1.4 million people died of TB, the news service notes (2/22).
NGOs Release Joint Statement Calling For Governments To Increase Payments To Global Fund To Fill Gap In TB Funding
Ahead of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day on March 24, three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) released a joint statement warning that “[a] $1.7 billion funding shortfall to fight [TB] over the next five years means 3.4 million patients will go untreated and gains made against the disease will be reversed,” Reuters reports. The International HIV/AIDS Alliance, the Stop AIDS Campaign and Results UK said in the statement that the cancellation of Round 11 grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was endangering the expansion of treatment and prevention programs, the news agency notes. The statement “called on governments to scale up funding of TB, HIV and malaria programs at a G20 meeting in Mexico in June in an effort to replenish the Global Fund with $2 billion,” according to Reuters (Mollins, 3/23).
Several blog posts recently commented on the upcoming World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, commemorated on March 24. “Despite a clear legislative mandate, the U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI) has consistently failed to live up to the goals of” the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB), and Malaria Reauthorization Act, a landmark legislation passed by Congress in 2008, John Fawcett, legislative director for RESULTS, writes in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog. He continues, “Current GHI TB treatment goals are less than 60 percent of what was mandated in the Lantos-Hyde Act,” and concludes, “As the final authorized fiscal year of the Lantos-Hyde Act is debated, there’s still time to embrace its mandate: a bold effort to confront the worldâ€™s leading curable infectious killer” (Mazzotta, 3/22). “As people across the globe celebrate World TB Day this week, several groups are highlighting the fact that the current tools to prevent, test, and treat tuberculosis (TB) are greatly outdated,” Ashley Bennett, senior policy associate at the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), writes in the GHTC “Breakthroughs” blog. She commends GHTC members for their efforts to develop new technologies (3/22).
Ukraine Security Secretary Says HIV, TB Remain Threat To Nation’s Security, Encourages Cooperation With Global Fund
Speaking about two bills concerning Ukraine’s cooperation with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Ukraine Secretary of National Security and Defense Council Andriy Kliuyev said “[t]he epidemics of AIDS and tuberculosis [TB] remain a threat to national security in Ukraine and require redoubled efforts to treat and prevent these diseases,” Interfax reports. Submitted to Ukraine’s parliament by the Cabinet of Ministers, the two bills “propos[e] to exempt from taxes and duties all transactions connected with the use of grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Ukraine,” the news agency notes. “The NSDC secretary said the state should explore every avenue to minimize the sickness rate and create conditions for the treatment and prevention of dangerous diseases, adding that the grants of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are valuable support for Ukraine,” Interfax writes (3/3).
WHO Reports More Than 900,000 Lives Saved Because Of HIV/TB Care And Prevention Guidelines, Releases Updated Version
“An estimated 910,000 lives were saved globally in six years due to guidelines intended to ensure that people living with HIV/AIDS are protected from tuberculosis [TB], the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said today, releasing an updated policy on joint prevention, diagnosis and treatment of both diseases,” the U.N. News Centre reports (3/2). “The number of HIV-positive people screened for TB rose almost 12-fold, from nearly 200,000 in 2005 to more than 2.3 million in 2010, the WHO said, as it released data on the impact of its 2004 guidelines on TB and HIV,” Reuters reports (3/2).
Inadequate Government TB Program, Lax Drug Sale Regulations Contributing To MDR-TB Cases In India, Health Groups Say
“India’s inadequate government-run tuberculosis [TB] treatment programs and a lack of regulation of the sale of drugs that fight the disease are responsible for the [increasing] number of drug-resistant cases that are difficult to treat,” health advocacy organizations said in India last week, the Associated Press/Huffington Post reports. “India adds an estimated 99,000 cases of drug-resistant TB every year, but only a tiny fraction of those infected receive the proper” six- to nine-month antibiotic regimen, according to the AP. In India, government-run TB treatment programs only provide drugs to patients on alternate days, increasing the likelihood of missed doses, and patients increasingly are turning to private physicians who are unaware of how to treat the disease, Medecins Sans Frontieres in India and other health groups said, the news agency reports. “The Indian government had no response Friday to requests for comment on the activists’ allegations,” the AP writes (Naqvi, 3/23).
In this Lancet opinion piece, Madhukar Pai, a professor and tuberculosis (TB) researcher at McGill University and consultant to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses TB control in India. He writes, “Much has been said and written in the media about totally drug-resistant tuberculosis â€¦ However, all of these discussions really miss the key point — that tuberculosis continues to be a huge problem in India, and that the conditions for emergence of drug resistance are undeniably prevalent, in both public and private sectors.”
Speaking at an event where South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe urged the mining industry to take greater steps to address tuberculosis (TB) and HIV among its employees, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu “announced that mining companies, whose HIV, TB and workplace safety policies are being audited by her department, will have to submit their policies as a prerequisite for renewing their mining licenses,” PlusNews reports. “According to Shabangu, South Africa’s mining sector sees three times as many cases of active TB as the general population,” the news service writes.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says the spread of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) — “a form of tuberculosis that does not respond to standard treatment and can kill in a matter of months” — “is much greater than previously thought,” VOA News reports. “‘Wherever we’re looking for drug-resistant TB we’re finding it in very alarming numbers. And that suggests to us that the current statistics that are being published about the prevalence of MDR-TB are really just scratching the surface of the problem,’ said Dr. Leslie Shanks, medical director for the group,” the news service writes (DeCapua, 3/21).