International health conference opens with XDR-TB funding call
Paris (1 November 2006) — Global TB leaders at the 37th Union World Conference on Lung Health announced today that US $95 million will be required to address the threat of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) in 2007.
At a news conference in Paris, Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the Stop TB Department of the World Health Organization (WHO), and other TB and HIV leaders called on governments and funding agencies to provide the resources urgently needed to prevent further occurrence of XDR-TB.
The key to prevention, treatment and control of XDR-TB is to strengthen basic TB control everywhere. The urgency of XDR-TB requires a $95 million budget now. Over the next 12 months this will provide:
Also announced today were plans for the WHO Stop TB Department to collaborate with the Foundation for Innovative and New Diagnostics (FIND) to distribute diagnostic TB test equipment and methodology. This will enable rapid culture and drug susceptibility testing and reduce the time required to confirm a diagnosis of TB drug resistance from as long as 3 months to just 2 weeks.
“With standard tests, many patients — particularly those who are co-infected with HIV — are at risk of dying before their TB drug resistance can be confirmed, so clearly rapid diagnosis is a critical component of our response,” said Dr Raviglione. “WHO and its partners are identifying high-risk countries that have the laboratory capacity to use this equipment effectively, and we aim to have them distributed within weeks.”
“Capacity is an issue because, in many countries, a shortage of skilled health professionals, including doctors, nurses and laboratory technicians, presents a challenge to efforts to strengthen TB control,” explained Dr Nils E. Billo, Executive Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), which provides technical assistance, education and research in low-income countries.
Lack of access to properly administered second-line drugs has also been a contributing factor to the emergence of XDR-TB. The Stop TB Partnership’s Green Light Committee (GLC) oversees the procurement and distribution of second-line drugs in low-income countries. The Partnership is helping countries at risk apply to the GLC to assist them in obtaining drugs through this mechanism as quickly as possible, and to administer them under quality-managed TB programmes. Funds generated by UNITAID should contribute to the $40 million required in the coming year to ensure an uninterrupted supply of high-quality drugs.
“The recent emergence of a cluster of cases in South Africa has demonstrated the high mortality that XDR-TB can have when associated with HIV infection,” said Dr Kevin De Cock, Director of WHO HIV/AIDS Department. “Countries with a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS have been responding quickly to draw up plans for managing and preventing drug-resistant TB and this is welcomed.”
Already a sub-regional framework has been presented by South Africa for review by WHO. They and several other southern African countries have agreed to develop and share their response plans by 10 November. And, although the cases in South Africa have been the most widely publicized, XDR-TB can also be found in other countries as diverse in their health profiles as the United States and Latvia, in eastern Europe.
The $95 million figure builds on outcomes and recommendations from three recent high level meetings on XDR-TB including a WHO Global Task Force on XDR-TB which met in Geneva in early October to assess and define actions. This costing is based on estimates and immediate measures.
“The response to XDR-TB from the affected countries, the Stop TB Partnership, technical agencies, community organizations and other stakeholders has been swift and decisive, and we expect an equally strong response from governments and donors,” said Dr Raviglione.
The World Conference on Lung Health is an annual event sponsored by The Union. It takes place this year in Paris at the Palais des Congrès from 31 October to 4 November. The theme is "Strengthening human resources to improve global lung health". A special symposium on XDR-TB will be held on Thursday, 2 November, 12:30–14:00. Journalists are invited to meet XDR-TB experts, former TB drug-resistant patients and representatives from organizations developing new TB drugs, diagnostics and vaccines.
A World Conference press pack, including details on the 2 November XDR-TB symposium, can be found at http://www.iuatld.org
For further information about XDR-TB, please visit the WHO Stop TB Department at http://www.who.int/tb
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