Stop TB plan ‘can save millions’

14 October 2010

More than five million lives can be saved in the next five years if governments and donors invest fully in a new global plan to stop tuberculosis launched in Johannesburg, Berlin and Geneva this week by the World Health Organization’s Stop TB Partnership.

The Global Plan to Stop TB 2011-2015 is action-oriented and, for the first time, identifies all the research gaps that need to be filled to bring rapid TB tests, faster treatment regimes and a fully effective vaccine to the market.

The plan also provides a clear roadmap for addressing drug-resistant TB, calling for 7-million people to be tested for multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), and for one million confirmed cases to be treated according to international standards over the next five years.

“The Global Plan to Stop TB provides an urgently needed blueprint to cut global TB deaths by half,” Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said in a statement this week.

“In South Africa we have embarked on an ambitious agenda for reducing the toll of TB on our people, and we are committed to meeting the Global Plan’s targets. We call on world leaders to invest in the plan, which can help move us towards ridding the world of TB.”

Universal access to TB care

The Stop TB Partnership was established in 2001, building on the Stop TB Initiative that was launched by World Health Organization in 1998. It has over 1 400 partners from around the world, representing both government initiatives and non-governmental organisations.

The initiative has the backing of over 30 institutions, both government and private, in South Africa.

Launched locally in Alexandra, Johannesburg on Wednesday, the new plan also shows public health programmes how to drive universal access to TB care, including how to modernise diagnostic laboratories and adapt revolutionary TB tests that have recently become available.

Speaking at the launch at Pholosho Primary School in Alexandra, Stop TB Partnership coordinating board chairman Rifat Atun said the new plan’s goals included laboratory strengthening, research, and updated targets for TB care.

“The plan aims to reduce deaths and TB prevalence,” Atun said. “If we are able to execute the plan, we need to scale up efforts in TB diagnosis, expand capacity to laboratories and develop new vaccines.”

The plan calls for US$37-billion for implementation of TB care globally between 2011 and 2015. A funding gap of about $14-billion – approximately $2.8-billion per year – will remain, and needs to be filled by international donors.

SA ‘making progress’

Gauteng Health and Social Development MEC Qedani Mahlangu said at the launch that South Africa was among the 22 countries that bore 80% of the burden of TB worldwide. However, the country had made progress in getting rid of TB, with the numbers of infected people declining.

“We’ve accepted the responsibility of scaling up the fight against TB, HIV and Aids,” Mahlangu said. “We urge the Southern African Developing Community to invest in this plan to help get rid of TB. It’s possible for us to stop it.”

John Tedstrom, CEO of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said the plan’s re-launch was desperately needed.

“TB is bigger than anyone, but combining forces, we can stop it,” Tedstrom said.

SAinfo reporter and BuaNews

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