NIGERIA HIV/AIDS NEWS
Global plan against Tuberculosis
January 30, 2006 :: Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo)
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) Gordon Brown and Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and one of the world's richest men, on Friday called on world leaders to rally behind a major new action plan to treat 50 million people and prevent 14 million deaths from tuberculosis over the next decade. According to a press release from the World Economic Forum, which is holding its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, the Stop Tuberculosis Partnership, which is a coalition of more than 400 organisations across the globe, on Friday released its "Global Plan to Stop Tuberculosis". This calls for tripling the amount of money the world spends on tuberculosis over the next ten years, in order to increase access to tuberculosis control programmes and accelerate research on new tools to fight the disease. Brown called for the G8 group of most industrialised nations to designate tuberculosis a top priority at its next meeting in July, and urged G8 member countries to pledge immediate new funding to implement the Global Plan. "For far too long, world leaders have ignored the global tuberculosis epidemic, even as it causes millions of needless deaths each year," Brown said. "Today's plan demonstrates that the fight against tuberculosis is one we can win". Obasanjo said implementing the new tuberculosis plan should also be a major priority for African leaders. "The Global Plan is fundamental for Africa, where tuberculosis was declared an emergency by 46 countries in 2005," Obasanjo said. "We hope the African Union will endorse this plan, and call upon African governments to commit their share of the resources needed to implement it." The full implementation of the Global Plan has been costed at 56 billion US dollars over the next decade (which includes 47 billion dollars for tuberculosis control and nine billion dollars for research and development). This is more than double the current projected spending for the next decade of 25 billion dollars. Based on current funding trends, the plan estimates at least 40 per cent of the additional funding needs to come from the G8 and other donor countries, while the remaining 60 per cent should come from the governments of tuberculosis-affected countries. To set the ball rolling, Bill Gates has dipped into his deep pockets. He announced that the Gates Foundation will triple its funding for tuberculosis over the next decade. So far, the foundation has committed more than 300 million dollars for tuberculosis. Friday's pledge will take this total to more than 900 million dollars by 2015. "This plan makes a compelling case for greater investment in tuberculosis," said Gates. "We're willing to triple our funding for tuberculosis, and we urge others to do the same. If we have the chance to save 14 million lives, and a clear plan to make it happen, we have an obligation to act." Gates stressed that new drugs are urgently needed to fight tuberculosis - the current treatment regime for tuberculosis takes at least six months to complete, and approximately 300,000 cases of tuberculosis every year are resistant to multiple tuberculosis drugs. Among the components of the plan are not only to improve access to existing therapies, but to develop new drugs and new vaccines. There have been no new tuberculosis drugs for almost four decades, and the current vaccine has been in use for almost a century. "We have a unique historic opportunity to stop tuberculosis, but we must act now," said Dr Marcos Espinal, Executive Secretary of the Stop Tuberculosis Partnership. "The challenge now is for people to work together in putting the plan into action, in order to stop one of the oldest and most lethal diseases known to humanity. This plan tells the world exactly what we need to do in order to defeat this global killer." He noted that some progress has been made in recent years. Since 2000, estimated spending on tuberculosis control in the 22 hardest-hit countries has increased from 800 million to 1.2 billion dollars. The number of patients receiving treatment for tuberculosis in these countries has more than doubled.