Momentum in fight against tuberculosis must be maintained, Ban says

24 March 2010 – Significant advances have been made in the fight against tuberculosis, with nearly 6 million people saved in the past 15 years, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, calling for the momentum to be maintained in the fight against the deadly disease.

“The world is on track to reverse the spread of this airborne killer,” Mr. Ban said in a message to mark World Tuberculosis Day, paying tribute to the many health-care providers and advocates around the world who have helped to treat and cure 36 million people since 1995.

The theme of this year’s Day is “On the move against tuberculosis,” and he said that there is movement in many areas against the disease.

Thanks to public awareness campaigns, communities are now much more aware of TB, while funding to combat it continues to grow through the United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, among other mechanisms.

Acclaimed pop star Craig David was named Goodwill Ambassador to give a further boost to efforts to fight TB.

He told the UN News Centre that he hopes to use his audience of millions worldwide to raise awareness of TB and minimize the stigma attached to it that can prevent many from seeking treatment.

“As a role model through my music, people really do listen to what I say,” he said. At the age of 28, he said that he hopes to reach young people and “speak in a way that I think people will actually understand.”

For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) is helping to coordinate technical support as the disease continues to evolve, while Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) seeks to boost awareness of the interlinked epidemics of TB and HIV.

“But progress should never distract us from the challenges,” the Secretary-General underscored in his message. “The numbers are still staggering.”

Last year, nearly 2 million people died from TB, making it the second biggest infectious killer of adults around the world. It is also one of the top three killers of women of reproductive age.

Rates of new illness are falling in all regions, but not in all countries, Mr. Ban pointed out. “Overall, rates of decline are far slower than needed.”

He also warned that lapses in control are pushing rates of multidrug-resistant TB, for which treatment is more costly and difficult.

“In this day and age, no one should be dying from TB,” the Secretary-General underlined.

A new WHO report issued last week found that drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) is now at record levels, with Asia bearing the brunt of the epidemic, calling for better diagnosis of the disease.

In some parts of the world, one in four people with TB becomes ill with a form of the disease that can no longer be treated with standard drugs, according to WHO’s Multidrug and Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis: 2010 Global Report on Surveillance and Response.

Nearly one-third of the 440,000 people with multidrug-resistant form of the disease (MDR-TB) in 2008 died, it said.

Almost half of the MDR-TB cases occurred in China, where the first nationwide drug resistance survey was conducted, and India. In Africa, estimates show 69,000 cases emerged, the vast majority of which went undiagnosed.


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