Feature story

TB Anywhere is TB Everywhere

20 March 2007

Photo credit:StopTB/T.Falise

Tuberculosis (TB) remains a global emergency despite the fact that it is a preventable and curable disease. Chronic lack of investment in TB programmes and research into new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent TB have left us extremely vulnerable to the new, emerging threats to TB control. The discovery of TB that is resistant to almost all drugs (extensively drug resistant TB – XDR TB); the deadly synergy between HIV and TB; and the ageing global population jeopardize the ability of TB control programmes around the world to cope.

World TB Day on 24 th March aims to focus the world’s attention on these and other major challenges that face global TB control. Achieving the TB-focused targets of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals by 2015 will depend on increased global commitment to TB control, and greater investment in research and the health services that deliver TB services.

Photo credit:StopTB/P.Virot

TB is one of the biggest killers of people living with HIV. At least one third of the 40 million people estimated to be living with HIV around the world are likely to be infected with the TB bacteria and at greatly increased risk of developing TB disease. Up to 80% of TB patients are co-infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Improved collaboration between TB and HIV programmes will lead to more effective control of TB among people living with HIV and can ensure that HIV positive TB patients get the HIV treatment and care they need.

"The TB and HIV communities can do much more together to address these leading causes of illness and death than they can apart. Much greater collaboration is essential if we are going to reach our common goals of achieving universal access to TB and HIV prevention, diagnostic and treatment services," said Dr Alasdair Reid, HIV/TB Adviser, UNAIDS.

The Global Plan to Stop TB lays out a budgeted plan for what the world needs to do to achieve the TB-focused Millennium Development Goals, including collaborative TB/HIV activities. If fully funded and implemented it will lead to 50 million cases of TB being treated and 14 million lives saved by 2015. However, in its first year the Global Plan is already under-funded.

Photo credit:StopTB/J.Davenport

The plan emphasizes the need for governments of high TB burden countries and donors to increase investment in TB control; greater involvement of affected communities in the response to TB; the need to protect communities from the threat of drug-resistant TB and HIV-related TB; and the need for funding for research into new and effective TB drugs, diagnostics and vaccines.

Ahead of World TB Day, the World Health Organization will release ‘Global TB Control Report’ which outlines the progress on achieving the 2005 global TB control targets. The report will be available on March 22nd at www.who.int/tb.