G8 leaders urged to take lead in TB battle
Leaders of the G8 group of rich countries should take the lead and fill a funding gap in the global battle against tuberculosis, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Friday.
Dr Wieslaw Jakubowiak, WHO's TB Control Programme Coordinator in the Russian Federation, urged the G8 heads of state to set an example at their July summit in St Petersburg by backing action to tackle the illness that kills about 2 million people a year.
A multi-billion-dollar Global Plan to Stop Tuberculosis 2006-2015, which aims to expand treatment programs, improve diagnosis and research and prevent co-infection with HIV/AIDS, was launched in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The plan was supported by a meeting of G8 health ministers in Moscow in April.
"Now we need support and leadership during the process of implementation and adequate financing from all countries including the G8," Jakubowiak said in an interview during a visit to London.
"Without political commitment and leadership the problem will not be solved," he added.
The leaders of the Group of Eight - Britain, the United States, France, Russia, Canada, Japan, Germany and Italy - will meet in St. Petersburg from July 15-17.
The 10-year, $56-billion plan aims to reduce TB prevalence and death rates and save 14 million lives by 2015. An estimated $25 billion is currently available, leaving a funding gap of $31 billion.
"In the 21st century TB, a curable disease, kills about 5,000 people every day. Very often they are young people," said Jakubowiak.
DRUG RESISTANT PROBLEM
In the Russian Federation the incidence of TB, a contagious airborne disease, doubled during the 1990s but has been falling since 2000.
Eastern European countries are also seeing a decline but multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and co-infection with HIV are hampering efforts to control the disease, according to the WHO. TB is a leading cause of death in people with HIV.
Patients with TB are treated with the new Stop TB strategy - a multi-level approach adopted by the WHO. Key components include addressing the problem of TB/HIV and MDR-TB, the need for increased government commitment to fight the disease, as well as monitoring, surveillance and standardized treatment with quality drugs.
But patients with MDR-TB do not respond to the two main drugs and require different, more expensive treatment that can produce adverse reactions.
The highest rates of MDR-TB are in countries of the former Soviet Union and China. In the Russian Federation it is estimated that 7,000-10,000, or 6-9 percent, of new TB cases have MDR-TB.
"We have to use all measures to fight TB. It is not only funds that should be in place. We need to mobilize resources - financial, human, intellectual and scientific - to solve the problem," Jakubowiak added.