The World Health Organization and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria said on Monday that strains of tuberculosis with resistance to multiple drugs could spread widely and highlight an annual need of at least 1.6 billion dollars in international funding for treatment and prevention of the disease.
Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of the WHO, and Dr Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund, said that the only way to carry out the urgent work of identifying all new cases of tuberculosis, while simultaneously making progress against the most serious existing cases, will be to mobilize significant funding from domestic sources and international donors.
With the overwhelming majority of international funding for tuberculosis coming through the Global Fund, they said, it is imperative that efforts to raise money be effective this year. Growing alarm about the threat of multi-drug resistant TB, also known as MDR-TB, is making that even more pressing.
“We are treading water at a time when we desperately need to scale up our response to MDR-TB,” said Dr Chan. “We have gained a lot of ground in TB control through international collaboration, but it can easily be lost if we do not act now.”
The WHO and the Global Fund have identified an anticipated gap of 1.6bn in annual international support for the fight against tuberculosis in 118 low and middle income countries on top of an estimated 3.2bn that could be provided by the countries themselves. Filling this gap could enable full treatment for 17 million TB and multi-drug-resistant TB patients and save 6 million lives in the two years 2014-2016.
“It is critical that we raise the funding that is urgently needed to control this disease,” said Dr Dybul. “If we don’t act now, our costs could skyrocket. It is invest now or pay forever.”
Dr Chan and Dr Dybul spoke to the media in Geneva in advance of World TB Day on 24 March, which commemorates the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch discovered the mycobacterium that causes tuberculosis.
While the Millennium Development Goal of turning around the TB epidemic has already been met, the 2 percent decline in the number of people falling ill with TB each year remains too slow.
Two regions – Africa and Europe -- are not on track to achieve the global target of halving the TB death rate between 1990 and 2015. In 2011, 1.4 million people died due to TB, with the greatest per capita death rate in Africa. Multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) presents a major threat, with an estimated 630,000 people ill worldwide with this form of TB today.