Health workers with Medical Teams International, a medical non-governmental organization, “say they are overwhelmed” by high demand at five health clinics in two southwestern Ugandan refugee centers, PlusNews reports. The refugees, “many of whom came from conflict-prone areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” and local residents are in need of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) prevention information, and care and treatment services, according to the news service. “Uganda suffers from a chronic shortage of health workers — less than half of the vacant health positions are filled — but the recent influx of refugees fleeing violence in neighboring DRC has put even more pressure on [the region’s] health services,” PlusNews writes. Physicians, who see 30 to 50 patients daily and often work double shifts, say gaps in the supplies of antiretroviral (ARV) and TB drugs poses concern, as does trying to follow-up with patients who may not return for visits, the news service notes (3/29).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports the findings from the second edition of the 2011 Report on Tuberculosis (TB) Research Funding and Trends from 2005-2010, released Thursday by Treatment Action Group (TAG) and the Stop TB Partnership. “TB research and development investment increased 76 percent between 2005 and 2010, but investment has slowed markedly, with only two percent growth since 2009,” the blog notes, adding, “The $630.4 million 2010 investment is only one-third of the $2 billion needed to stay on track with the Global Plan to Stop TB 10-year implementation and research strategy to eliminate TB as a public health threat by 2050” (Mazzotta, 3/28).
“In an attempt to tackle tuberculosis [TB] among current and former miners, their families, and affected communities, 15 southern African leaders signed a Declaration on TB in the Mining Sector, a legal instrument, at the recent summit meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government in Maputo, Mozambique,” the Lancet reports. “The declaration is to ensure commitment and accountability by member states to improve the lives of those affected by tuberculosis,” the journal writes, adding, “A code of conduct, to accompany the declaration, will be signed by the region’s health ministers next month.”
Speaking on Monday in Luanda, Angola, at the opening session of the inaugural meeting on Medical Education, sponsored by the Faculty of Medicine of Agostinho Neto University, WHO Regional Director for Africa Luis Gomes Sambo said communicable diseases account for 63 percent of deaths in Africa, with HIV and tuberculosis (TB) responsible for the majority of those, the Angola Press reports. Nonetheless, Africa has made significant progress against HIV/AIDS and malaria, as well as in improving child and maternal mortality, he said, according to the news service (10/22). Sambo also “said on Monday in Luanda that the population’s health depends on the provision of health care for those [in] need, as well as the efforts made by the society to protect, promote and re-establish the people’s well-being,” another article from Angola Press notes (10/23).
In a post in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog, Lucica Ditiu, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, examines the need to include tuberculosis (TB) in the global AIDS response blueprint that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), writing, “At present one in four AIDS-related deaths is precipitated by TB. … All people living with HIV need to get tested for TB and receive TB treatment if they have the disease.” She continues, “We urge PEPFAR to include in the blueprint explicit TB/HIV indicators and activities,” and she provides five examples (10/23).
Noting the release of the WHO Global Tuberculosis Report 2012 this week, this Lancet editorial says the results show “good and bad news.” The editorial says, “The number of tuberculosis cases and deaths continues to fall … and overall, the world is on track to achieve the global target of a 50 percent reduction by 2015.” However, “with an estimated 8.7 million new cases (of which 13 percent represent co-infections with HIV) and 1.4 million deaths from tuberculosis in 2011,” the “global burden of tuberculosis remains huge,” the editorial states. The report also shows “alarming levels of multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) tuberculosis,” the editorial notes.
“An antibiotic used to treat severe bacterial infections showed promise at treating a highly drug-resistant and deadly form of tuberculosis [TB],” according to a study conducted by U.S. government and South Korean researchers and published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, Reuters reports (Steenhuysen, 10/17). The “small study offers a bit of cautious optimism about the prospects for treatment of tuberculosis, … showing that adding a 12-year-old antibiotic called linezolid, brand name Zyvox, to existing treatments cured nearly 90 percent of patients with a form of tuberculosis resistant to both first- and second-line antibiotics,” NPR’s “Shots” blog writes (Knox, 10/18). “However, most of the patients [in the study] — 82 percent — experienced side effects while on the treatment, which tempered the findings, the team reported,” Reuters notes. “Researchers are desperately looking for new treatments for drug-resistant forms of TB, which threatens to derail progress in the global fight to eradicate the disease,” according to the news agency (10/17).
Number Of New TB Infections Fall, But Drug Resistance, Lack Of Funding Could Slow Progress, WHO Reports
“New tuberculosis [TB] infections dropped 2.2 percent worldwide last year, but with nearly nine million new infections, the World Health Organization said TB remains a massive problem that could worsen if countries shortchange funding to fight it,” Reuters reports (Steenhuysen, 10/17). “In a new report issued Wednesday, the U.N. agency estimated there were about 8.7 million new cases of TB last year, down from about 8.8 million in 2010,” and “[t]he number of deaths was unchanged at about 1.4 million — making it the second-leading killer among infectious diseases after AIDS,” the Associated Press writes (Cheng, 10/17). “The number of people becoming ill with tuberculosis has been falling steadily for roughly a decade after a surge in the 1990s,” but “those numbers are still huge, and only 19 percent of those infected with forms of the disease that are resistant to multiple tuberculosis drugs are being diagnosed, the WHO estimated,” according to the Wall Street Journal (McKay, 10/18). BBC News notes the report “warned of ‘persistently slow progress’ in treating tuberculosis which is resistant to antibiotics” (Gallagher, 10/17).
In a BMJ Group Blogs post, Caroline Robinson, global health advocacy manager for Results U.K., discusses the prevalence and treatment of tuberculosis (TB) and drug-resistant TB in Europe and provides the example of Romania. She writes, “[E]vidence brought to light in a new report [.pdf] released recently outlining the effect funding shortages will have on HIV and TB, including drug-resistant TB, in the European region suggests that Romania does not have the institutional capacity to ensure its citizens have the basic right to health. The country relies on grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which look set to end in 2013.” She continues, “[Global Fund] Board members should ensure that middle-income countries with epidemics among key populations can access critical Global Fund contributions and the E.U. and its member states must continue to provide the resources the fund requires to meet demand. Unless such support is given, countries like Romania will continue to fall further down the league tables in terms of treatment for this curable disease” (10/10).
South Africa “recently unveiled” a “newly reformed” South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), “coinciding with the announcement that the country has achieved universal access to HIV treatment,” PlusNews reports. Responding to a 2010 review of the body, SANAC “will now hold a new, annual meeting comprised of representatives from the research community, labor unions and people living with HIV,” at which “participants will discuss major policy issues and review progress on the country’s current national plan to address the twin epidemics of HIV and tuberculosis,” according to the news service.