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China Making Headway in Fight Against TB

China has made "huge progress" in the past five years in the fight against tuberculosis (TB), said an official of a global TB program on Friday.

"What we have seen is that progress has been made in China. Amazingly, the progress has been huge," Marcos Espinal, executive secretary of Stop TB Partnership, told Xinhua News Agency.

"It (The Chinese government) is very committed to controlling TB. It is in the process of expanding access to TB services all around the country, from half of the provinces three years ago to all the provinces now."

He said three years ago Chinese hospitals were not part of the DOTS (Directly Observed Therapy Short-course) strategy and half of TB cases came from hospitals. Now all hospitals across the country have adopted this system.

As a result, 60 percent of TB cases were detected in China in 2005, compared to 28 percent five years ago.

Espinal said he was very optimistic about TB control in China. However, he warned that to fight TB in such a huge and populous country is not an easy task.

Two things are needed before China can claim victory: long-term political and financial commitments and long-term planning, he said.

With 1 million new TB cases every year, China is the world's second hardest-hit countries, after India.

Stop TB Partnership, a global initiative supported by more than 400 organizations worldwide, unveiled an ambitious global plan at the Davos annual meeting of the World Economic Forum on Friday.

The plan aims to treat 50 million TB cases and prevent 14 million deaths from the epidemic by 2015. It also envisages new drugs by 2010, new effective diagnostic tools by 2012 and a new vaccine by 2015.

The ultimate goal of the international community, said Espinal, is to make the world free of TB by 2050.

The plan costs about 56 billion U.S. dollars over the next 10 years, and 31 billion dollars in addition to the currently projected funding is needed.

On average, about 50 percent to 60 percent of the funding comes from governments, the rest from donors, said Espinal.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who helped launch the plan, pledged to commit 600 million dollars for TB in the next 10 years, on top of the 300 million dollars the Gates Foundation has already pledged.

(Xinhua News Agency January 28, 2006)

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