MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

WHO and Global Fund cite $1.6 billion TB shortfall

The World Health Organization and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria recently identified an anticipated $1.6 billion annual shortfall in annual international support for the battle against tuberculosis.

Margaret Chan, the WHO's director-general, and Mark Dybul, the executive director of the Global Fund, said the gap would affect the fight against tuberculosis in 118 low- and middle-income countries. By filling the gap, international donors could allow for the treatment of 17 million TB and multi-drug-resistant TB patients, saving six million lives between 2014 and 2016.

"It is critical that we raise the funding that is urgently needed to control this disease," Dybul said. "If we don't act now, our costs could skyrocket. It is invest now or pay forever."

The Millennium Development Goal of turning the TB epidemic around has been met, but Chan and Dybul said the annual two percent decline in the number of people falling ill with TB is too slow.

"We are treading water at a time when we desperately need to scale up our response to MDR-TB," Chan said. "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."

Europe and Africa are not on track to achieve a global target of halving the TB death rate between 1990 and 2015. Approximately 60 percent of the estimated $1.6 billion donor gap is for WHO's Africa region.

Chan and Dybul said the four priority areas in the 118 countries most affected by TB are expanded diagnosis and effective treatment for drug-susceptible TB, prompt and effective treatment for multi-drug-resistant TB, uptake of new rapid diagnostics and associated laboratory strengthening and ensuring regular screening for active TB disease among people living with HIV.

The WHO and the Global Fund also estimates a $1.3 billion annual gap for TB research and development between 2014 and 2016, including clinical trials for new TB vaccines, diagnostics and drugs.