PAHO/WHO urges better detection and treatment of tuberculosis

By PAHO/WHO

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PRESS RELEASE –  On World Tuberculosis Day, March 24, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is calling on countries in the Americas to step up efforts to detect and treat people with tuberculosis, to bring the epidemic to an end in the region by 2030.

The countries of the Americas have made significant progress in reducing the burden of TB, but along with HIV/AIDS, TB continues to be one of the region’s leading infectious causes of death.

In 2013, more than 285,000 people became ill and 17,000 died from TB. Some 31,800 people with HIV developed tuberculosis.

“Ending the tuberculosis epidemic will require bold policies and supportive health systems in the context of universal health coverage, to ensure that no one lacks access to early diagnosis or the treatment they need,” said Dr. Mirtha del Granado, PAHO/WHO Advisor on TB. “Only this way will we be able to put an end to TB.”

WHO’s “End TB” strategy, approved by WHO member governments during the World Health Assembly last year, centers on three action areas: patient-centered care, development of policies and systems for prevention and care, and research and innovation to help accelerate TB elimination.

The strategy sets the ambitious goals of reducing TB deaths by 95% by 2035 and reducing cases by 90%. It also sets the goal of eliminating catastrophic costs for TB patients and their families over the next five years.

Between 1990 and 2013, deaths from TB declined 63% in the Americas, thanks largely to the implementation of PAHO/WHO’s “Stop TB” strategy, which is based on directly observed therapy – short course (DOTS), measures to address multiresistant (MDR) TB and coinfections of TB and HIV, and involving all healthcare providers and communities in implementing the strategy.

Despite that progress, the region continues to face challenges including an estimated 65,000 undiagnosed TB cases, the spread of multiresistant TB, the appearance of extensively resistant TB, and the development of TB in people with HIV.

In 2013, TB incidence in the region was 29 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. “Ending TB”—that is, eliminating it as a public health problem—would require reducing TB incidence to below 10 cases per 100,000.

The burden of TB varies across countries of the Americas, but the epidemic is concentrated in vulnerable populations in large cities, especially in marginal neighborhoods with overcrowded living conditions, poor water and sanitation services, and limited access to health care.

With support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), PAHO/WHO is implementing an initiative to control TB in large cities of the Americas, which aims to ensure early detection of people with TB to accelerate reduction of the disease.

The initiative promotes coordination between local political and health officials and involves actions across sectors, including education, social protection, urban development and health.

The initiative is currently being implemented in Lima, Peru; Bogotá, Colombia; Guaruhlos, Brazil; Montevideo, Uruguay; Guatemala City, Guatemala; and Tijuana, Mexico; and is starting in Asunción, Paraguay.

TB in the Americas

An estimated 285,200 people became ill with TB in the Americas in 2013, and 17,000 died of the disease.

Some 31,800 people with HIV developed TB.

6,900 people in the region became ill with multiresistant TB.

Countries reported 220,500 new TB cases in 2013, of which 5.3% (11,379) were children.

The countries accounting for the largest proportion of the region’s cases were Brazil (33%), Peru (13%), Mexico (8.8%), and Haiti (7.4%).

An estimated 65,000 people in the Americas have TB but have not been diagnosed.

In 2012, 75% of reported cases were successfully treated, and 69% of TB cases were tested for HIV.

World TB Day

World TB Day, observed on March 24, marks the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB. The discovery set the stage for successful diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

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