The pace of global efforts to control the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic slowed slightly in 2006, as did progress in diagnosing people with the airborne infectious disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.
In an annual report on world TB control situations, the UN agency said there were 9.2 million new cases of TB in 2006, including 700,000 cases among people living with HIV, and 500,000 cases of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB).
In addition, an estimated 1.5 million people died from TB in 2006, while another 200,000 people with HIV died from HIV-associated TB.
The annual report, which contains data up to 2006 provided by 202 countries and territories, cites several reasons for the slowdown in progress, including that some successful programs at the national level have not been able to maintain their efforts at the same pace in recent years.
There has also been no increase in the detection of TB cases through national programs in a number of African countries.
In addition, the public programs did not take into account many patients that are being treated by private care providers, and by non-governmental, faith-based and community organizations.
"We've entered a new era," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, who stressed the need to strengthen public programs and to partner with other service providers to step up efforts to combat TB.
"Enlisting these other providers, working in partnership with national programs, will markedly increase diagnosis and treatment for people in need," she said.
Threatening a further slowdown in progress is the fact that rates of MDR-TB, which takes longer to treat and requires more expensive drugs, are at an all-time high, according to WHO, which added that the response to this epidemic has been inadequate.
The deadly combination of TB and HIV, which is fueling the TB epidemic in many parts of the world, especially Africa, is also posing a threat to global anti-TB efforts.
The shortage in funding is another factor. Although there has been an increase in resources, TB budgets are not expected to rise this year in nearly all of the most heavily-affected countries, says WHO.
(Xinhua News Agency March 18, 2008)