23 October 2001
NEW GLOBAL PLAN TO STOP SPREAD OF TUBERCULOSIS
Afghanistan and Pakistan among the world’s worst-affected countries
WASHINGTON, October 23, 2001¾Warning the international community that tuberculosis is spreading globally at an alarming rate, a broad coalition known as the Stop TB Partnership, which includes the World Health Organization and the World Bank, today launched a plan to reverse the epidemic, and appealed to governments in both developed and developing worlds to substantially increase their financial backing for it. With a death toll of nearly two million people last year alone, TB’s deadly association with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and growing drug-resistance to TB, the Stop TB Partnership said that TB is an imminent public health emergency.
Vulnerable and poor populations across the globe are especially at risk of contracting the disease which is spread through the air, attacking the lungs, and killing gradually and painfully. For example, Afghanistan and Pakistan are already dealing with high TB infection rates. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are living in cramped conditions along their common border. In these circumstances there is a real risk that even more people will fall victim to the disease.
The Global Plan to Stop TB, launched today, will propose the expansion of national access to DOTS, the internationally accepted strategy through which healthcare workers and community volunteers treat people suffering from TB with a powerful combination of medicines, in ways that ensure the success of their lengthy treatment. The medicines cost as little as $10 for complete treatment. The global plan also includes prevention of multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB); research and development of new TB drugs with a shortened treatment period; and strategies to better treat people with TB who are HIV positive. Recent figures confirm that Sub-Saharan Africa alone has witnessed a 10 percent annual growth in TB. People with HIV are far more likely to become sick with TB, and unless treated, are likely to pass it on to others.
"Investing in global health issues like TB makes sense because improving health is a concrete measurable way of reducing poverty and inequity—both at country and global level. Investments in health are investments in human potential which, as we have seen, are the greatest resource for development," says WHO Director-General, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland. "Investing in accelerated DOTS expansion will have a profound impact: 22 million people would be cured of TB and 16 million lives would be saved by 2005. WHO is proud to have worked with so many partners to have made this possible."
The Stop TB Partnership was set up in 1998. It is comprised of more than 120 groups including George Soros’ Open Society Institute which financed initial development of the plan. Stop TB describes the plan as a comprehensive business strategy that would accelerate efforts to control TB over the next five years and move towards its eventual elimination.
The Partnership, which estimates that the plan would cost approximately US$ 9.3 billion to implement, says it faces a funding gap of about US$ 4.5 billion.
The Plan has built-in indicators for evaluating progress, allowing partners and donors in TB control to use them to assess progress and re-direct efforts as needed. Its cornerstone will be DOTS. When applied properly, the strategy provides treatment success rates worldwide reaching 9 out of 10 people. Yet only 1 out of 4 people diagnosed with TB presently receive DOTS treatment. Aggressive implementation and expansion of existing control strategies are needed if present TB trends are to be deflected, otherwise 2005 global targets will not be reached before 2013.
"The World Bank see the Global Plan to Stop TB as the starting point towards a world free of TB. Given that it causes approximately 2 million deaths per year, creates and perpetuate a cycle of poverty and despair, the development rationale for reversing this epidemic could scarcely be more urgent," said World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn, who opened the first meeting of the Stop TB Partnership which was jointly hosted by WHO and the World Bank.
Delegates at the Stop TB Partnership meeting today reaffirmed a commitment made in 1998 by the Group of Seven, the Global Stop TB Partnership, and government ministers from 20 ‘high-burden TB’ countries to meet TB control targets by 2005. These targets are defined as 70 percent detection of people with infectious TB cases and 85 percent cure rates of those new cases detected.
In Washington, D.C., representatives from the countries that make up 80 percent of the world’s incidence of disease, and over 200 partners committed to stopping TB, pledged themselves to meet the 2005 goals, a pledge that was symbolically represented through the full endorsement of the document titled The Washington Commitment. Mobilizing finance to allow for rapid expansion and implementation of DOTS will have a profound impact on reaching these targets.
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