Leaders pressed to revive pledge to tackle MDR-TB

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pretoria - World leaders have been challenged to step up their commitment and contributions to meet the goal of diagnosing and treating one million people with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) between 2011 and 2015.

The call from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Stop TB Partnership, came ahead of World TB Day to be commemorated on 24 March.

According to the report, Towards Universal Access to Diagnosis and Treatment of MDR-TB and XDR-TB by 2015, which monitors the MDR-TB response in countries with the highest burden of drug-resistant TB, many countries have made progress.

However, WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan cautioned that despite the recent scale up in efforts, the world needs to do much more to get care for all MDR-TB patients who need it.

"We cannot allow MDR-TB to spread unchecked. Leaving MDR-TB untreated increases the risk of spread of drug resistant strains of TB," Chan said.

WHO estimates there will be more than two million new cases of MDR-TB between 2011 and 2015. 

Global Fund Executive Director Professor Michel Kazatchkine said it is anticipated that the fund will provide 84 percent of all international investments in TB in 2011. He stressed that both domestic and international resources needed to be scaled up to cope with MDR-TB and continue to make progress in the fight against TB. 

"MDR-TB is a threat to all countries as it is difficult and expensive to treat. Unless we make an extraordinary effort to tackle this problem, our ability to finance and secure continued progress against TB in general will be threatened," warned Kazatchkine.

UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Stop TB, Dr Jorge Sampaio, challenged countries with rapidly growing economies and a heavy burden of MDR-TB to step up their commitment and financing for their own MDR-TB programmes. 

Since 2009, the 23 countries most heavily affected by drug resistant TB have nearly doubled their budgets for MDR-TB. 

Stop TB Partnership Executive Secretary, Dr Lucica Ditiu, said the Global Fund's success can be measured in the number of lives that have been saved through care provided by the TB programmes it finances.

"Every TB patient should have access to proper care. To reach a million people with effective care for MDR-TB over the next five years, we will need to work closely with all partners, especially with affected communities."