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European Leaders Must Make Good On Commitments To Fight TB

“One third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB, and one tenth of these people will become sick from the illness during their lifetime,” WHO Regional Director for Europe Zsuzsanna Jakab writes in the Huffington Post’s “The Big Push” blog. “Today we are confronted with forms of TB that do not respond to conventional treatment, but can still be passed from person to person through breathing the same air,” she adds, noting, “The multidrug- and extensively drug-resistant (M/XDR) TB are becoming more widespread across the European region, particularly in eastern countries.” She continues, “We can no longer afford to be complacent and must take effective steps to screen and treat people with these new forms of the disease, to stop them spreading further,” and writes, “Global investment in fighting these forms of TB must focus on Europe, as over half of the countries in the world with the highest rates of MDR/XDR-TB are here.”

“In 2011, European governments acknowledged the threat, endorsing a five-year plan developed by WHO’s Office for Europe to diagnose 85 percent of MDR/XDR-TB cases, and successfully treat 75 percent of them by 2015,” an “ambitious” but “desperately needed” plan, Jakab continues. “Yet the goal still remains far off,” as “[o]nly one in three people with MDR/XDR-TB are currently being diagnosed, according to estimates, and half of patients are treated successfully,” she notes. “We need to invest in health systems that put the patient first, in the spirit of WHO’s new European Policy Framework, Health 2020,” she states, adding, “European leaders now have a unique opportunity to join international partners and renew their efforts to fight TB.” She concludes, “I call on European governments to make good on their commitment: provide funding now to avoid an epidemic that tomorrow will be hundreds of times more costly to tackle” (7/18).