Drug-resistant TB cases up to 580,000
13 October 2016 – New data released today by the World Health Organization shows that the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic is bigger than anyone had previously counted. There are now more cases, more deaths, and more drug resistance on record. This is the third year in a row that the estimate of total TB cases and deaths has been revised upward.
"The world has consistently underfunded and under prioritized TB, and now we are able to show how much the epidemic has been ignored," said Hannah Bowen, ACTION secretariat director. "These numbers underscore the need for a swift, smart, and sustained response to the world’s leading infectious killer."
According to the WHO report, 10.4 million people fell ill with TB in 2015—800,000 more than reported in 2014. These higher reported figures do not necessarily mean more people are falling ill, but rather that we know more about when and where cases are occurring. For years, the true burden of TB was hidden by weaknesses in data collection, reporting, or health systems. This is the third year in a row that the estimate has risen globally and in large countries like India, due to better data, more comprehensive programs, and new national surveys that use a more in-depth screening formula.
"This improved data is a reminder of the urgency of the epidemic, especially the growing threat of drug-resistance," said Aaron Oxley, executive director of RESULTS UK. "We will never reign in antimicrobial resistance more broadly if we fail to tackle TB."
Momentum has been building to combat global antimicrobial resistance (AMR). In May, the Independent Review of AMR in the UK issued recommendations on battling drug-resistance around the world. Last month, the UN convened a high level meeting on AMR, and in July 2017, G20 leaders are expected to meet in Germany to take action on global drug-resistance. Today's report shows drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) growing dramatically—to 580,000 cases—with only 19 percent of people with DR-TB receiving the needed treatment.
To tackle both MDR and the full TB epidemic, both national leaders and global donors must step up political and financial commitments. Last month, world leaders gathered in Montreal pledged US $12.9 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the largest external funder of TB programs worldwide. While this successful three-year replenishment of the Global Fund's programs is a critical first step, major funding gaps remain. The WHO estimates a $1.7 billion annual funding gap in the fight against TB.
The WHO has laid out an ambitious End TB Strategy aiming to eliminate TB as a global public health threat within 20 years. Additionally, the Stop TB Partnership launched a Global Plan to End TB 2016 – 2020, providing a costed blueprint for the first five years of the End TB Strategy.
At the recent Stop TB Partnership Board meeting, South Africa Minister of Health Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, the First Lady of Nigeria, and other global health leaders universally endorsed the call for a UN High-Level Meeting on TB at the next UN General Assembly in September 2017. To date, strong Heads of State commitments to fight TB have been missing or insufficient to the need.
"We now have the plans in place to combat TB, but these plans are only as good as the resources and energy we put into them," explained Allan Ragi, executive director of KANCO, the Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium. "With increased resources, political attention, and aggressive action, we can alter the course of TB. There is no time to waste."
ACTION is a partnership of 12 locally rooted organizations around the world that advocate together to build political will and increase investments for global health. Our partners: Æquitas (India), CITAM+ (Zambia), Global Health Advocates France, Global Health Advocates India, Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium, Princess of Africa Foundation (South Africa), RESULTS International Australia, RESULTS Canada, RESULTS Japan, RESULTS Educational Fund (US), RESULTS UK, WACI Health (Kenya).
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