Feature story

New data shows progress in addressing TB/HIV

08 December 2009


Some 36 million people have been cured of tuberculosis (TB) over the past 15 years through a rigorous approach to treatment endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO). New data, released by WHO, also indicate that up to 8 million TB deaths have been averted, confirming the Stop TB Strategy as the most cost-effective approach in the fight against TB.

The WHO update also shows continued progress on addressing the lethal combination of TB and HIV. Between 2007 and 2008, 1.4 million TB patients were tested for HIV, an increase of 200, 000. Of those who tested HIV positive, one-third benefited from life-saving HIV anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and two-thirds were enrolled on co-trimoxazole prophylaxis to prevent the risk of fatal bacterial infections. In addition, screening for tuberculosis and access to isoniazid preventive therapy for TB among people living with HIV more than doubled, although the total number is still far short of what it should be.

"Fifteen years of TB investments are bringing visible results in terms of human lives saved. Together, national programmes, WHO, UNAIDS, the Global Fund and other partners have helped save millions of lives from TB," said Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of WHO's Stop TB Department. "But the current pace of progress is far from sufficient to decisively target our goal of TB elimination."

The WHO Stop TB Strategy has five elements: political commitment with increased and sustained financing, case detection through quality-assured bacteriology, standardized treatment with supervision and patient support, an effective drug supply and management system, monitoring and evaluation system and impact measurement.

Data from the latest 12 month period now show that the highest ever number of infectious patients - 2.3 million people - were cured. With 87% of treated patients cured, the 85% global target was exceeded for the first time since it was established in 1991. Furthermore, a total of 53 countries surpassed this treatment milestone.

Fifteen years of TB investments are bringing visible results in terms of human lives saved. Together, national programmes, WHO, UNAIDS, the Global Fund and other partners have helped save millions of lives from TB.

Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of WHO's Stop TB Department

Although more and more patients are being cured, there are millions who are being let down because they are unable to access high-quality care. TB remains second only to AIDS in terms of the number of people it kills. In 2008, 1.8 million people died from TB including half a million deaths in HIV related illness–many of them because they were not enrolled on ART.

A persistent challenge that is largely left unchecked in many parts of the world is multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and its even more dangerous form, extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB). Of the estimated half a million MDR-TB cases occurring per year, almost 30 000 were officially reported and 6 000 were known to be treated according to WHO international standards in 2008. A major expansion of services is currently in an early and difficult phase but almost 29 000 people are expected to be treated in 2010.

Of the estimated 9.4 million TB cases in 2008 (including 1.4 million TB/HIV cases), 3.6 million cases occurred among women.

"Half a million women died from TB last year. It is a disease that destroys lives, damages families and stifles development," said Dr Mario Raviglione. "Without help to fill the US$ 2 billion funding gap for TB care and control in 2010, the most vulnerable people will continue to miss the benefits so many others have seen."

The new report provides the most accurate information on the global burden of tuberculosis. It also features updates about the work of the Global Laboratory Initiative, the WHO Global Task Force on TB Impact Measurement, and describes the success of a new initiative in 2009 in which global TB data collection went online.

Related feature stories


WHO TB Control


Stop TB Partnership

The Global Fund

Feature stories:

UNAIDS Executive Director meets with TB Programme Managers, TB civil society (26 March 2009)


Global tuberculosis control: a short update to the 2009 report


For further information, please contact:
Glenn Thomas,
Senior Communications Adviser, Stop TB Department,
WHO +41 79 509 0677,
E-mail: thomasg@who.int  

All WHO information can be found at www.who.int