Global Fund and WHO cite need for TB treatment funding

The World Health Organization and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria said on Monday that multi-drug resistant tuberculosis could widely spread, necessitating $1.6 billion in annual funding.

Margaret Chan, the director-general of the WHO, and Mark Dybul, the executive director of the Global Fund, said significant funding will be needed to identify all new TB cases while making progress against the most serious existing ones. They said it is extremely important that fundraising be successful this year, particularly in light of the growing problem of MDR-TB.

"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."

WHO and the Global Fund anticipate a gap of $1.6 billion in annual international support for the battle against TB in 118 low and middle-income countries, in addition to an estimated $3.2 billion that could be provided by the countries themselves. Filling the gap could allow for the complete treatment of 17 million TB patients and save 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."

Chan and Dybul spoke on the subject of TB in Geneva in advance of World TB Day on Sunday.

In 2011, approximately 1.4 million people died as a result of TB. An estimated 630,000 people worldwide are currently ill with MDR-TB.