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Underfunding ‘nightmare’ hampers the global TB battle

There is a “nightmare of underfunding” for tuberculosis (TB), described by experts as “the greatest infectious disease killer on the planet”.

Stephen Lewis, HIV advocate and former deputy director of UNICEF, reiterated this at the 47th Union World Conference on Lung Health currently taking place in Liverpool.

TB is the deadliest infectious disease worldwide killing 1.8 million people in 2015, according to a recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which found rates of the disease were much higher than previously thought.

But 2015 was also the year the world spent the lowest amount of money on TB research and development since 2008.

There is no tenable reason on earth to lose almost 2 million people a year. The battle is not being won which is absolutely indefensible. The masters of the universe have become impervious to human suffering.

A report published this week by the historic HIV lobby organisation, the Treatment Action Group (TAG), found that funding for research into better prevention, diagnosis and treatment for TB dropped by US$53.4 million from 2014 to 2015.

Fulfilling promises

According to TAG the world spent US$620.6 million on TB research and development in 2015 marking the second straight year that funding has fallen, “raising doubts over whether world leaders will fulfill recent promises to … eliminate TB by 2035”.

The world has committed to the WHO’s End TB Strategy developed in 2014 which aims to end the global TB epidemic as a public health crisis: with targets to reduce TB deaths by 95 percent and to cut new cases by 90 percent between 2015 and 2035.

But declining funding will “be translated into failures in reaching any target” including those in the WHO’s End TB Strategy, according to Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership.

TAG estimated that the US$3.29 billion funders invested in TB research and development from 2011 to 2015 constituted only a third what was actually needed: US$9.84 billion.

Modest investments

The report noted that high-income countries would need to fund half of the required resources but high-burden TB countries, especially BRICS nations, would need to contribute the rest. Other than India and South Africa, which made “modest investments” in 2015, it noted BRICS countries have not “mobilized in support of TB research”.

Lewis said unlike HIV, TB can be completely cured: “There is no tenable reason on earth to lose almost 2 million people a year. The battle is not being won which is absolutely indefensible. The masters of the universe have become impervious to human suffering.”

He said that “this is not Aleppo”.

“This is a communicable disease we can defeat. So let’s do exactly that.” – Health-e News.

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