Regional Health Ministers Declare Tuberculosis an African Emergency
August 26, 2005
Late Thursday in the Mozambican capital of Maputo, regional health ministers from 40 African countries agreed to declare TB an emergency in Africa. The are urging nations to develop plans to control the worsening epidemic, commit more resources to detecting and treating the disease, and expand access to TB and HIV medicines. The declaration was made at the 55th session of the World Health Organization's Regional Committee for Africa, a weeklong meeting that ends Friday.
The committee also called on countries to increase and improve TB control staffing, reduce the number of patients who do not finish the six-month treatment course, and expand TB-fighting partnerships between government and nongovernmental organizations.
"Despite commendable efforts by countries and partners to control tuberculosis, their impact has not been significant and the epidemic has now reached unprecedented proportions," said WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo.
Africa is the only continent where TB rates are increasing every year. With just 11 percent of the world's population, Africa accounts for more than a quarter of the 9 million active TB cases and 2 million deaths caused by the disease annually. In part, TB incidence has soared due to its link with HIV. Of the estimated 25 million HIV-positive Africans, around 8 million are co-infected with TB. Every year, 5-10 percent of those 8 million develop active TB, WHO figures show.
Health experts say that expanding access to TB treatment, combined with the introduction of HIV testing and antiretroviral treatment in TB programs, could save thousands of lives daily.
But Africa's efforts to control TB have been hampered by poor funding and weak health care infrastructures. In addition, the level of donor support for TB programs lags far behind that for HIV/AIDS and malaria, said Dr. Mario Raviglione, head of WHO's Stop TB Partnership, which is appealing for $2.2 billion in aid to fight TB in Africa in 2006-07.
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.