TB cure targets not being met

NEW DELHI, MARCH 24. Only 13 of the country's 35 States and Union Territories are meeting the 2005 Tuberculosis targets set by the global community and the Indian Government while eight States are close to achieving them. Nagaland, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Bihar, unfortunately, fail to cure even four of the 10 patients infected with the disease, the India TB Report Card released here suggests.

Issued by Massive Effort Campaign, Results International and Saahasee on the eve of World TB Day, the report card says that the Revised National TB Control Programme is showing good performance in a low expectation setting of Indian public health programmes.

However, well-performing States such as Kerala and Delhi were showing signs of a "slip back" in the number of cases. According to Bobby John of Massive Effort Campaign, while the overall performance needs to be sustained, and expanded to all the States, the "slip back" needs to be checked.

Currently, 4.8 persons of the 10 with infectious TB are being cured using high quality Directly Observed Treatment Short course (DOTS), the global standard of treatment for TB. In 2000, the Government pledged that seven of every 10 TB-infected persons would be treated this way, with at least six of them being cured by the end of 2005. This report card tracks the work done up to September 2004 to meet that commitment.

A TB-infected patient is likely to pass it on to about 15 others over a year and the most effective way of preventing it is to treat the infected persons. Within weeks of initiating the six-month long treatment, the patients cease to spread the infection to others. The last drug for TB was invented 42 years ago and the microscopic sputum test 123 years ago. "However, it does not mean that the efficacy of drugs has reduced in any way and neither will the new patents regime affect the cost in any way," Dr. John said.

The Revised National TB Programme requires patients to be diagnosed through microscopic examination of their sputum, followed by treatment under direct observation of a DOTS worker or a community organiser for six months. Building an ongoing treatment relationship with patients is a foundation for future health programmes that require longer and more intense relationships, especially those such as HIV and diabetes. Tuberculosis was last year's most overlooked tragedy. According to the report, TB killed more people than all wars, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and airline accidents. About , adding that 1.8 million people globally could have been prevented if properly treated with highly effective anti-TB medicines. Even now, it is believed that one-third of the world's population could be TB-infected with TB.

Seven African countries and the Russian Federation are making the slowest progress in controlling the disease. tuberculosis. In Africa, this is largely because of HIV and in Russia because of multidrug resistant (MDR) TB. India has performed well and is close to curing 80 per cent of its infected people.

Results International is a non-profit organisation working to end worst aspects of poverty and Massive Effort campaign is a global advocacy and communications initiative for mobilising all segments of society against AIDS/TB and Malaria.

The data used in the report is taken from the Global TB Control report 2005, published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) but does not reflect views of the WHO or any other government organisation.

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