Thursday March 24 was World Tuberculosis Day and the World Health Organization (WHO) had called on all countries and partners to “Unite to End Tuberculosis” as we enter the era of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ending tuberculosis by 2030 is one of the targets of the SDGs and the goal of the WHO End TB Strategy, the WHO says. While there has been significant progress in the fight against TB, with 43 million lives saved since 2000, the battle is only half-won; more than 4,000 people lose their lives each day to this leading infectious disease. According to the WHO many of the communities most burdened by tuberculosis are those that are poor, vulnerable and marginalized.
Ending TB will only be achieved with greater collaboration within and across governments and with partners from civil society, communities, researchers, the private sector and development agencies. This means taking a holistic and multidisciplinary approach, in the context of universal health coverage. The WHO says that our giant neighbor India, afflicted by more people with TB and multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) than any other country, has committed itself to achieving universal access to TB care with its campaign for a TB-Free India. India’s Health and Family Welfare Ministry is expanding its capacity to test patients rapidly for drug-resistant TB and is initiating use of bedaquiline, a new, WHOrecommended drug in MDR-TB treatment. In addition, by making TB case notification mandatory in 2012 and by intensifying efforts to engage the private sector, case notifications rose by 29% in 2014 alone.
Despite these advances, formidable challenges remain including fragile health systems, human resource and financial constraints and the serious co-epidemics with HIV, diabetes, and tobacco use. MDR-TB is another critical challenge. Urgent and effective action to address antimicrobial resistance is key to ending TB by 2030. So are increased investments, as the global tuberculosis response remains underfunded for both implementation and research, the WHO says. The facts and figures could make us breathless, especially at a time of growing air pollution largely because of the unchecked emissions of carbon dioxide. In 2014, an estimated one million children became afflicted with TB and 140,000 children died.
TB is a leading killer of HIV-positive people: in 2014, one in three HIV deaths was due to TB. Globally, in 2014, an estimated 480,000 people developed MDR-TB. The TB death rate dropped by 47% between 1990 and 2015. An estimated 43 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2014. The WHO End TB Strategy aims to reduce TB deaths by 90% and to cut new cases by 80% between 2015 and 2030 and to ensure that no TB-affected family faces catastrophic costs due to TB.
According to the Sri Lanka Health Ministry’s National Programme for Tuberculosis Control and Chest Diseases, Tuberculosis is still a major public health problem. It says, 9,000 new cases of tuberculosis are notified every year. Around 60% are smear-positive pulmonary TB cases.
The Ceylon National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis (CNAPT), setup in 1948, says 40% of the incidents of TB is concentrated in the Colombo district. Therefore CNAPT says it has the capacity to assist the National TB control programme in case- detection, defaulter-tracing and the provision of DOTs. CNAPT President Dr. P.N.B Wijekoon in an article published in the Daily Mirror on Thursday, says the association is focusing on health education to make the people aware that TB could be cured if patients take prescribed treatment while those with suggestive symptoms are screened for the disease. He says that thankfully the stigma attached to TB has all but disappeared. Yet with India being the worst affected by the deadliest form of TB, Sri Lanka needs to