Three million people sick with tuberculosis go undiagnosed each year, while failures to address strains of disease that don’t respond to drugs constitute a public health crisis, according to the World Health Organization’s just released 2013 Global Tuberculosis Report. While the report cites progress in continued drops in TB incidence and deaths, it emphasizes that steps toward controlling the disease in accordance with Millennium Development Goals remain “far off track,” and attributes gaps in responses to insufficient resources.
The WHO report identifies five goals and “priority actions” to address deficits in TB responses that threaten continued progress. They include:
- Reach missed cases by expanding services through better supported health systems, improved data collection and tracking, and increased access to rapid tests;
- Address multi-drug resistant TB as a public health crisis by building treatment capacities and drug supplies, with increased collaboration and leadership;
- Accelerate the response to TB/HIV coinfection by increasing antiretroviral treatment coverage and increasing coverage of TB preventive treatment;
- Increase financing — noting that “progress could be reversed without adequate funding;”
- Ensure rapid uptake of innovations — including of new diagnostic tools, treatment and prevention
The report’s release comes as a letter dispatched to the White House yesterday and signed by 65 physicians, cited President Obama’s attempt last year to cut funding for USAID’s Tuberculosis program by 19 percent, and urged him to increase funding this year to fight the disease. USAID’s TB program, the letter points out, supports research for product development, including for new drugs, needed diagnostic tools and towards a vaccine. In addition, it provides technical support to the hardest hit countries to equip laboratories, and instill good practices for treatment in the private sector.
The WHO report was accompanied by a supplement, Countdown to 2015, summarizing progress toward Millennium Development Goals pertaining to global tuberculosis, continued challenges to meeting those goals, and needed responses. It provides “snapshots” of the widely diverse challenges and progress of nine African countries and nine South East Asian countries, as well as of Brazil, Afghanistan, and the Russian Federation.
For more on the global impact of tuberculosis and efforts to address it, as well as the history of responses to the disease — including a timeline of major milestones and breakthroughs — the Center for Global Health Policy, which produces this blog, has just released a new fact sheet — Tuberculosis: An Ancient Disease, a 21rst Century Global Crisis. You can also download the center’s fact sheet on TB/HIV co-infection, Fuel and Fire.