Feature story

Call for increased commitment to meet the goal of diagnosing and treating one million people with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis between 2011 and 2015

23 March 2011

A version of this story also appears at www.who.int.

Credit: WHO

To mark World TB Day, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Stop TB Partnership are calling on world leaders to step up their commitment and contributions to meet the goal of diagnosing and treating one million people with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) between 2011 and 2015.

WHO has released a report, Towards universal access to diagnosis and treatment of MDR-TB and XDR-TB by 2015, which presents progress in the MDR-TB response in the countries with the highest burden of drug-resistant TB. "Many countries have made progress, but despite the recent scale-up in efforts, the world needs to do much more to get care to all MDR-TB patients who need it," says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. "We cannot allow MDR-TB to spread unchecked."

The risk of leaving multidrug-resistant tuberculosis untreated

Leaving MDR-TB untreated increases the risk of spread of drug resistant strains of TB. WHO estimates there will be more than 2 million new cases of MDR-TB between 2011 and 2015.

Treatment programmes

Programmes financed by the Global Fund and that follow WHO treatment standards are expected to diagnose and treat about 200 000 people for MDR-TB by 2015, a fourfold increase from those 50 000 patients who are currently undergoing treatment.

Many countries have made progress, but despite the recent scale-up in efforts, the world needs to do much more to get care to all MDR-TB patients who need it

Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General

It is anticipated that the Global Fund will provide 84% of all international investments in TB in 2011. However, both domestic and international resources need to be scaled up to cope with MDR-TB if progress in the response to TB is to be maintained.  

“MDR-TB is a threat to all countries as it is difficult and expensive to treat. Unless we make an extraordinary effort to tackle this problem our ability to finance and secure continued progress against TB in general will be threatened” says Professor Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund.

Time to step up commitments

According to Dr Jorge Sampaio, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Stop TB, "It is time for countries with rapidly growing economies and a heavy burden of MDR-TB to step up their commitment and financing for their own MDR-TB programmes. Several have the capacity to show new leadership on south-south cooperation and aid to neighbouring countries that are also affected."

Since 2009, the 23 countries most heavily affected by TB drug resistance have nearly doubled their budgets for MDR-TB. According to the Global Fund, from 2002 to 2010, they have financed TB programmes around the world that have provided treatment to 7.7 million people and saved the lives of 4.1 million.

"The Global Fund's success can be measured in the number of lives that have been saved through care provided by the TB programmes it finances," says Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership. "Every TB patient should have access to proper care...To reach a million people with effective care for MDR-TB over the next five years, we will need to work closely with all partners, especially with affected communities."

MDR-TB is a form of TB that fails to respond to standard first-line drugs. In 2009, WHO reported that 9.4 million people became ill with TB and 1.7 million died, including 380 000 people with HIV-associated TB. There were some 440 000 cases of MDR-TB and 150 000 deaths in 2008, the latest year for which estimates are available.