WHO calls on the world to “Gear up to End TB”

Bhutan Times - - Home - Sonam Pen­jor

So far, two dis­eases have been suc­cess­fully erad­i­cated, one specif­i­cally af­fect­ing hu­mans (small­pox), and one af­fect­ing a wide range of ru­mi­nants (rinder­pest) yet an­other dis­ease tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, WHO aims to end the global tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.

As coun­tries will be marked World Tu­ber­cu­lo­sis Day on March 24, World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) is call­ing for “global sol­i­dar­ity and ac­tion” to sup­port a new 20-year strat­egy, which aims to end the global tu­ber­cu­lo­sis epi­demic.

Ac­cord­ing to the WHO news re­lease, re­cent years have seen tremen­dous progress in the fight against TB, with over 37 mil­lion lives saved, but much more needs to be done. In 2013, 9 mil­lion peo­ple fell ill with TB, al­most half a mil­lion of whom have a multi-drug re­sis­tant dis­ease which is far harder to treat. An es­ti­mated 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple still die of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis each year.

News re­lease fur­ther says that, the dis­ease fre­quently has dev­as­tat­ing eco­nomic con­se­quences for af­fected fam­i­lies, re­duc­ing their an­nual in­come by an av­er­age of 50 per­cent, and ag­gra­vat­ing ex­ist­ing in­equal­i­ties.

Dr Mar­garet Chan, WHO Direc­tor-Gen­eral said in the news re­lease that “this is a mat­ter of so­cial jus­tice, fun­da­men­tal to our goal of uni­ver­sal health cov­er­age. Each and ev­ery man, woman or child with TB should have equal, unhindered ac­cess to the in­no­va­tive tools and ser­vices they need for rapid di­ag­no­sis, treat­ment and care”.

Mean­while, WHO’s End TB Strat­egy, adopted by gov­ern­ments at the World Health As­sem­bly last year, is de­signed to drive ac­tion in three key ar­eas: for in­stance; in­te­grated pa­tient-cen­tered TB care and pre­ven­tion for all in need, in­clud­ing chil­dren; bold poli­cies and sup­port­ive sys­tems; and in­ten­si­fied re­search and in­no­va­tion.

Be­sides that, the strat­egy also sets am­bi­tious tar­gets of a 95per­cent re­duc­tion in TB deaths and a 90per­cent re­duc­tion in cases of TB by 2035. An im­por­tant mile­stone to be reached within the next five years (2020) is the elim­i­na­tion of cat­a­strophic costs for TB pa­tients and their fam­i­lies. Elim­i­nat­ing cat­a­strophic costs is fea­si­ble through mak­ing care more ac­ces­si­ble and through fi­nan­cial pro­tec­tion schemes to min­i­mize med­i­cal and non-med­i­cal costs as well as in­come loss, ac­cord­ing to the WHO news re­lease.

More­over, the strat­egy would also ad­dresses tu­ber­cu­lo­sis among vul­ner­a­ble groups, in­clud­ing peo­ple living with HIV who de­velop TB. In 2013 there were an es­ti­mated 1.1 mil­lion peo­ple co-in­fected with HIV and TB, 360 000 of whom died.

“The progress that has been made in com­bat­ing TB has been hard won and must be in­ten­si­fied if we are to wipe out the TB epi­demic,” says Dr Eric Goosby, who was ap­pointed UN Spe­cial En­voy on TB in Jan­uary this year in the WHO news re­lease. “The End TB Strat­egy of­fers new hope to the mil­lions of peo­ple suf­fer­ing and los­ing their lives to TB each year. It is time to join forces to cre­ate a world free of TB” added the Dr Eric.

While, per­sis­tent fund­ing gaps in the TB re­sponse also need to be filled to drive progress to­wards end­ing the global epi­demic. It is vi­tal that re­source gaps of US$ 2 bil­lion per year for TB in­ter­ven­tions and US$ 1.39 bil­lion per year for TB re­search be filled. Ac­cel­er­at­ing re­search and in­no­va­tion in ba­sic science, new di­ag­nos­tics, drugs and vac­cines and their rapid up­take, will be crit­i­cal to break the tra­jec­tory of the epi­demic and reach the global tar­gets.

Dr Mario Rav­iglione, Direc­tor of the WHO Global TB Pro­gramme said in the news re­lease that “this World TB Day should serve to alert and mo­bi­lize as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to end the epi­demic.” “We must work with in­no­va­tors in health, devel­op­ment, civil so­ci­ety and the pri­vate sec­tor to end the bur­den of this pre­ventable dis­ease.”

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