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Are we ready to give it all to #endTB?

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Are we ready to give it all to #endTB?


Few countries have already ended the endemic transmission of TB. Why cannot every country globally can do so?
Few countries have already ended the endemic transmission of TB. Why cannot every country globally can do so?
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First-ever United Nations High Level Meeting to end TB by 2030 was held four years ago. It culminated in an important political declaration that galvanised accelerated action towards eliminating TB by 2030. With less than a year to deliver on intermediary 2022 promises, progress has been there but dismal. More importantly, latest Global Tuberculosis (TB) Report of the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that COVID-19 gave a major jolt to the efforts to fight the ancient disease forcing to reverse gains that were made in the past decade.

For the first time in over a decade, TB deaths have increased because of reduced access to TB diagnosis and treatment in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Close to half of the people ill with TB missed out on access to care in 2020 and were not reported; also, the number of people provided with treatment for drug-resistant TB and TB preventive treatment dropped significantly.

"TB rates are not declining as steeply as we need to end TB by 2030. Goal of a world free of endemic transmission of TB and without disability and death due to TB is achievable as it has already been achieved in some nations like Australia. We need to convert high burden countries into low burden countries as soon as possible," said Prof Guy Marks, President of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and noted respiratory medicine expert and lung health epidemiologist-researcher of University of New South Wales, Australia. Prof Marks was speaking at Asia Pacific regional press conference hosted by The Union and Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Health and Development (APCAT).

It is important to note that despite unprecedented progress towards #endTB goal in the past decade, most parts of the world were not on track to end TB even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Decline in TB rates every year were much lower than the desired rate if we are to end TB by 2030. Undoubtedly, COVID-19 had a devastating blow to the efforts to end TB.

Is TB everyone's business?

"We are struggling to be in the correct direction to #endTB because TB is not yet everyone's business. Stigma is still there for instance," said Dr Erlina Burhan, Head of TB Assembly, and Chairperson of the Indonesian Lung Doctors Association (PDPI) and member, Board of Directors, The Union. Importantly, she said there is a silver lining in the COVID-19 pandemic, as many of the health protocols to protect people from the new virus, such as testing, tracing, hand-washing and social distancing, also protect people from TB. "We have to make sure these important infection prevention practices are also reinforced in the fight against TB. COVID-19 has shown how quickly progress can be made in the fight against a deadly infectious disease when the world joins forces. With COVID-19, everything was developed in a very short time - in less than a year we had a vaccine. I think we can do it for TB as well - now is the time."

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