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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

New data show Covid-19 combined with funding shortfalls are devastating for TB fight

Data from 2021 show that the impact of Covid-19 on the TB response has continued to be profound: 1.2 million fewer people have been diagnosed and treated for TB in 2021 with four months still left in the calendar year.

By: Express News Service | Pune |
Updated: September 29, 2021 11:33:14 am
An estimated 5.7 million people received treatment for TB in 2020, a drop of 21 per cent from the previous year—leaving an estimated 4.3 million people with untreated TB and spelling all but certain death for probably half that number. (Photo: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

The Covid-19 pandemic along with dismally low levels of funding to fight tuberculosis (TB) have significantly impacted the much-desired goal of eradicating the disease by 2030, data released by Stop TB Partnership show.

Data from 2021 show that the impact of Covid-19 on the TB response has continued to be profound: 1.2 million fewer people have been diagnosed and treated for TB in 2021 with four months still left in the calendar year. Currently, only $6.5 billion per annum is available for the TB response globally, less than half of the commitments made at the United Nations High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) on TB.

The organization, in a statement issued here, has warned that getting the TB response back on track will require at least a doubling of resources, including a significant increase in the share of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (The Global Fund) allocates to TB.

“Years of chronic neglect have led to an unbearable situation in which TB kills more than 4,000 people a day— more than HIV and malaria combined—and still, too few decision-makers, donors and stakeholders care about TB,” said Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership. “It is not that we will see future consequences: we are in the middle of the disaster, and our attention seems to be in the very wrong place. Data from 2020 and 2021 will reveal soon how hundreds of thousands of additional people are dying from TB and how TB drug resistance and the TB epidemic itself are on the rise.”

An estimated 5.7 million people received treatment for TB in 2020, a drop of 21 per cent from the previous year—leaving an estimated 4.3 million people with untreated TB and spelling all but certain death for probably half that number. “We always knew that ending TB by 2030 was going to be an uphill battle, but Covid-19 and the reduced funding for TB have sent us rolling further down the hill than anyone could have expected,” added Ditiu.

The worrying state of the response to TB will also be discussed at the Stop TB Partnership’s 34th virtual Board Meeting, which commenced from September 28-30 under the leadership of the Board Chair, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Mansukh Mandaviya.

Based on available TB notification data, the Stop TB Partnership anticipates that the world will fail to achieve the 2018 United National High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) on TB target of diagnosing and treating 40 million people with TB in the period 2018-2022. Global projections, based on data from 27 countries representing around 73 per cent of the global burden of TB, show that less than 85 per cent of this UNHLM target will be achieved.

“While 85 per cent might sound like an achievement, what it means in practice is that more than 5 million people with TB will be left behind without treatment,” said Dr Ditiu. “Untreated TB translates into approximately a 50 per cent mortality rate, and those who survive will not only suffer the consequences of the disease but will also spread TB to many more, perpetuating the cycle of transmission.”

Only around 20 per cent of the UNHLM target of treating 115,000 children with MDR-TB is expected to be achieved by 2022. When it comes to TB prevention, less than 30 per cent of the UNHLM target of putting 24 million contacts of people with TB on preventive therapy is expected to be reached. The biggest external donor to TB programs—the Global Fund—only allocates 18 per cent of its resources to TB, even though the disease causes more than half of the deaths from diseases served by the Global Fund. In 2019, 1.4 million people died from TB, more than HIV/AIDS (700,000 deaths) and malaria (410,000 deaths) combined.

Of the currently available funds for the fight against TB, 85% comes from domestic budgets. The remaining 15% is provided only for two-thirds by The Global Fund. Low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) remain heavily dependent on the Global Fund for TB services, clearly putting the Global Fund under the spotlight to significantly increase its funding portion to close the huge gap, according to the report.

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