World marks World TB Day

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pretoria - Governments have been urged to step up their commitment and contributions to meet the goal of diagnosing and treating TB as the world marks TB Day.

The World Health Organisation also says donors must stamp out multidrug-resistant TB after the number of the hard-to-treat strains of the lung disease has doubled in recent years.

In a progress report to mark World TB Day on Thursday, the WHO and partner agencies estimated that the number of new cases of MDR TB would reach two million between 2011 and 2015 if it is left unchecked.

"MDR-TB is a threat to all countries as it is difficult and expensive to treat," said Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fights AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

"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," he added in a statement.

The WHO estimated that $900 million would be needed over the next four years to reach the target of treating one million people with such strains. Some 50 000 people are currently receiving treatment. 

About 407 000 cases of TB cases were identified in South Africa in 2009, with KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape accounting for almost 50 percent of all cases.

The fight against TB is expected to receive a major boost when Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi unveils new technology at an event at the Prince Mshiyeni hospital, Durban this morning.

The new technology will shorten TB testing times to two hours as opposed to the current three weeks.