UN chief calls for continued momentum in fighting tuberculosis

13:56, March 25, 2010      

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Significant advances have been made in the fight against tuberculosis (TB), with nearly 6 million people saved in the past 15 years, UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday, calling for the momentum to be maintained in combating the deadly disease.

"The world is on track to reverse the spread of this airborne killer," Ban said in a message to mark World Tuberculosis Day, paying tribute to the many healthcare providers and advocates around the world who have helped to treat and cure 36 million people since 1995.

The theme of this year's world day is "On the move against tuberculosis," and Ban said that there is movement in many areas against the disease.

Thanks to public awareness campaigns, communities are now much more aware of TB, while funding to combat it continues to grow through the United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as other mechanisms.

Furthermore, the World Health Organization (WHO) is helping to coordinate technical support as the disease continues to evolve, while the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) seeks to boost awareness of the interlinked epidemics of TB and HIV.

"But progress should never distract us from the challenges," the secretary-general stressed in his message. "The numbers are still staggering."

Last year, nearly 2 million people died from TB, making it the second biggest infectious killer of adults around the world. It is also one of the top three killers of women of reproductive age. Rates of new illness are falling in all regions, but not in all countries, Ban said. "Overall, rates of decline are far slower than needed."

He also warned that lapses in control are pushing rates of multidrug-resistant TB, for which treatment is more costly and difficult.

"In this day and age, no one should be dying from TB," the secretary-general underlined.

A new WHO report released last week found that drug-resistant tuberculosis is now at record levels, with Asia bearing the brunt of the epidemic, calling for better diagnosis of the disease. In some parts of the world, one in four people with TB becomes ill with a form of the disease that can no longer be treated with standard drugs, according to the WHO's Multidrug and Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis: 2010 Global Report on Surveillance and Response.

Nearly one-third of the 440,000 people with multidrug-resistant form of the disease (MDR-TB) in 2008 died, it said.

Almost half of the MDR-TB cases occurred in China, where the first nationwide drug resistance survey was conducted, and India. In Africa, estimates show 69,000 cases emerged, the vast majority of which went undiagnosed.

Source: Xinhua
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