Saturday 23 Oct 2021 | 09:41 | SYDNEY
Saturday 23 Oct 2021 | 09:41 | SYDNEY

On the move against Tuberculosis

24 March 2010 11:57

Tim Siegenbeek van Heukelom is a Research Associate for Pacific Friends of the Global Fund at the Lowy Institute and PhD candidate at the Centre for International Security Studies.

Today is World TB Day, a good time to reflect on the considerable efforts and progress made in stopping the spread of tuberculosis. Themed this year as 'On the move against tuberculosis: Innovate to accelerate action', the focus today is on looking at new ways forward.

There have been a variety of innovations introduced over the last few years, in a great diversity of settings, which found news ways to stop TB. A recent example is an 'Electronic Nose' to diagnose TB, an Indian innovation that received a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant last year to realise this innovative project.

Another great case in point is the Debt2Health exchange Australia has signed with Indonesia, whereby AUD$75 million of commercials loans to Indonesia will be cancelled, provided that Jakarta contributes Rp37.5 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to be used to fight tuberculosis in Indonesia.

Programs funded by the Global Fund have accounted for 63 percent of the external financing for TB in low- and middle-income countries. In dollars this means the Fund has disbursed close to US$3.2 billion over 112 countries to bring TB to a halt – and in many of these countries TB prevalence and mortality rates are indeed declining.

Despite these huge investments, tuberculosis stills kills more than 1.5 million people annually. While this year marks the halfway point for the Global Plan to Stop TB and Millennium Development Goal 6, halving the tuberculosis prevalence rate by 2015 is unlikely. This is even more tragic since TB can be cured with a six-month course of antibiotics that costs only US$20.

If we truly want to eliminate tuberculosis as a global public health problem by 2050 (one of the targets of the Global Plan to Stop TB) it is essential to massively scale up our resources and fund even more innovative projects. The Global Fund estimates that it would cost an average US$5.6 billion per year between 2010 and 2015 to control the spread of tuberculosis. It is therefore of vital importance that donor support for the Global Fund be significantly increased in the replenishment round in October this year.

Photo by Flickr user AJC1, used under a Creative Commons license.