Progress made in the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis (TB) is in danger of being derailed and even reversed completely according to the latest report from The Global Fund.
Published last Monday (September 14) The Global Fund Results 2020 Report states that gains made in the fight against TB in 2019 have included:
- 5.7 million people have been tested and treated for TB
- 20.1 million people have received antiretroviral therapy for HIV
- 718,000 HIV-positive mothers received medicine to keep them alive and prevent transmitting HIV to their babies
- The gap between TB notifications and TB incidence in the 13 focus countries fell from 49 percent in 2014 to 33 percent in 2018
However, the report warns that gains made are now at risk of being reversed completely due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report shows that in some places new TB case notifications have dropped by up to 75 percent, which could lead to a rise in new infections as people unaware of their status continue to transmit the diseases to others, while the volume of HIV testing has dropped by 50 percent.
José Luis Castro, Executive Director of The Union, said: “This situation is extremely serious, and the challenges cannot be underestimated. So very many lives are at stake here. We must work smarter. We must combine testing for COVID19 and TB, and we must ensure that all those who need treatment get not only the medicines and other interventions that they need, but also the economic and social support to enable them to complete their treatment properly. And most of all, we must invest in the health of people, globally. Because the true cost of not doing so, in suffering, in healthcare costs, and in the sheer loss of so much human potential, is unthinkable.”
In a video statement released on social media, Peter Sands, Director of The Global Fund, says: “We ended 2019 with excitement and expectation. Together, The Global Fund partnership saved 6 million lives in 2019 alone. More people were receiving life-saving treatment for HIV, TB and malaria, than ever before.
“Then, the COVID19 pandemic hit, and everything changed.
“Studies predict deaths from HIV, TB and malaria could as much as double in the next year as a knock-on result of COVID19, wiping out a decade or more of progress. We cannot let that happen. We have fought too hard and for too long against HIV, TB and malaria, to let that progress be destroyed by COVID19.
“We must act with speed and at scale investing far greater resources than have yet been committed. We must see this not just as a fight against a specific virus, but as a catalyst to finish the unfinished fights against HIV, TB and malaria and to strengthen our global preparedness against future pandemics.
He concludes: “The stakes are extraordinarily high. In 2020, we could lose all we have achieved in the last 10 years. We must unite to fight.”
The forthcoming Union World Conference on Lung Health, this year taking place virtually, will feature a special focus on the intersection of tuberculosis and lung health with COVID-19. Numerous studies evaluating the pandemic´s impact on national TB programs in Nigeria, Japan, Tibet, Uganda and Belarus will be presented.
In addition, a study co-authored by Professor Eric Goosby, the UN Special Envoy for Tuberculosis, will estimate the global economic cost of not ending TB by 2030.