The meeting in Beijing last week of health ministers from high-burden MDR and XDR TB countries has produced some significant results, at least on paper.
Perhaps most notably, participants “committed to help mobilize $2 billion needed over the next two years to adequately finance the TB and M/XDR-TB response from both domestic and international resources and called for increased investment in the research and development of new TB diagnostics, drugs and vaccines,” according to a missive from the World Health Organization we got today.
That and other plans “are expected to have a significant impact in these and other countries in saving lives, enabling care for those in need, and ‘turning off the tap’ that produces M/XDR-TB,” the WHO note says.
As we noted in an earlier post on the meeting, the WHO’s Director-General, Margaret Chan, described MDR and XDR TB as “a time bomb or a powder keg.” Chan, in her opening remarks, said: “Any way you look at it, this is a potentially explosive situation.”
Here’s the Call for Action that participants agreed to at the end of the session:
· Progress towards universal access to M/XDR-TB diagnosis and treatment by 2015;
· Removal of financial barriers to TB care;
· Development of a comprehensive M/XDR-TB management and care framework;
· Sufficient staff are trained and deployed;
· Strengthened laboratory systems;
· Collaboration with all partners;
· Development and implementation of airborne infection control policies;
· Sufficient supply of high-quality anti-TB drugs;
· Strengthened mechanisms to ensure availability of TB medicines is regulated;
· Advocacy and communication and social mobilization are included in policies and plans; and
· New tools to combat M/XDR-TB.
Chan said preventing and managing drug resistant TB was a global health imperative. “We need high-level political attention because national TB programmes cannot by themselves manage these new threats. The problem has become too great.”
In addition to the WHO, the meeting was organized by China’s Ministry of Health and the Bill & Gates Foundation, in the hopes of building consensus and political will to tackle drug-resistant TB globally.
Bill Gates urged all countries to invest in innovative methods to fight TB, according to the WHO account. “Every country should feel the urgency, whether it is suffering from TB or not. Every country is capable of innovation, whether it is has a high-tech economy or not. And every country can adapt its systems to use the best innovations of others.”