Address TB challenges now or lose the fight against the disease, WHO warns

News release

TAGAYTAY CITY, Philippines, 26 July 2010—The World Health Organization (WHO) today warned that the Western Pacific Region's gains in tuberculosis control over the last decade would be lost unless multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant TB, as well as TB-HIV co-infection, are urgently addressed.

While there has been significant progress towards the regional goal of decreasing by half TB prevalence and mortality rates compared with 2000 levels, WHO said these successes may be reversed unless gaps in financial and technical support are put in place to effectively address these challenges.

In line with this, the Stop TB Technical Advisory Group is meeting from 26 to 28 July to discuss the draft Regional Strategic to Stop TB in the Western Pacific Region (2011–2015). The meeting will assess the TB burden and review the progress towards the 2010 Stop TB goals for the Western Pacific Region. It will also identify gaps in financial and technical support through the Interagency Coordinating Committee, which aims to mobilize further commitments and partnerships to meet the challenges of controlling TB in the Region.

More than 1.3 million patients in the Western Pacific Region are diagnosed with TB and nearly 90% of them are successfully treated every year. Due to the successful expansion of quality TB services, the estimated number of prevalent TB patients in the Region fell from 3.6 million in 2000 to 2 million in 2008. Fewer patients are also dying from the disease.

Despite these successes, Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said TB control programmes in the Region face significant challenges. "The TB epidemic tends to concentrate in vulnerable and marginalized populations who have limited access to health care and are difficult to reach," Dr Shin said.

"HIV still poses a major threat and has the potential to reverse the gains achieved by the TB control efforts," he said. Likewise, the Region has not yet adequately responded to the silent epidemic of multidrug-resistant TB in terms of technical, financial and human resources."

WHO said countries will need to strengthen early case detection and universal access to quality TB services while maintaining DOTS—directly observed treatments. short-course—the WHO recommended treatment for TB.

The Technical Advisory Group meeting, the seventh to be held with the support of the Government of Japan and the United States Agency for International Development, will finalize the draft strategy for consideration of endorsement at the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in October 2010.

For further information, please contact Dr Catharina Van Weezenbeek, WHO Regional Adviser in Stop TB and Leprosy Elimination:Tel.: (632) 528 9706;Mobile: +63 ( 0)928-501-2064;
E-mail: vanweezenbeekc@wpro.who.int Hotel contact: Tel.:+63 (46) 413 1000; Fax No.: +63(2) 403 1000

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