The world is at a critical juncture in the fight against tuberculosis (TB). Every year 8.8 million people around the world become newly infected with TB and the disease is responsible for 1.4 million deaths annually, including nearly a quarter of all AIDS deaths. However recent investments in global TB control are helping to turn the tide against this disease. Findings from the World Health Organization (WHO) reveal that absolute numbers of TB cases have been falling since 2006, TB incidence rates have decreased since 2002, and that the number of TB deaths each year has been steadily decreasing (http://www.who.int/ tb/publications /global_report /2011/gtbr11_full.pdf). TB has also been cited as one of the most cost-effective public health interventions by the 2012 Copenhagen Consensus. Every dollar spent on tuberculosis control yields more than $15 worth of benefits, making global TB control a very worthwhile investment. (http:// www. Copenhagen consensus. com /Default.aspx?ID=1634).
Despite of all the recent progress against the disease, many donor countries, including Canada, are scaling back their commitments to global TB control. The WHO has identified a $2 billion global funding shortage for TB control in 2012. The ramifications of these cut backs are enormous. As a result of global declines in TB spending the Stop TB partnership estimates that hundreds of thousands of TB patients will lose access to TB treatment.
It is a situation, Piara, a garments worker in Bangladesh, knows too well. Even though she was sick with TB, the standard diagnostic was unable to correctly diagnose her. But Piara was lucky – the health clinic she visited had Xpert, a new TB diagnostic, which was able to correctly diagnose her. Instead of waiting weeks for results, Piara was started on treatment that very day. By diagnosing patients earlier, Xpert allows patients to receive treatment earlier so they are no longer infectious and are less likely to spread the disease in their communities. (http://www.newtbdrugs.org/blog/videos/action-new-technology-saves-lives/) But without adequate funding for global TB control, this life –saving technology will remain out of reach for millions around the world.
Canada’s Commitment to Tuberculosis Control
Canada has traditionally been a leader in the fight against tuberculosis, founding the TB-REACH initiative to increase case detection of TB in 2009 and consistently supporting the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. However, in accordance with the 2012 federal budget plan to cut foreign aid spending at CIDA, the Canadian government recently announced that multi-lateral spending on TB control will be reduced by $10 million per year, starting in 2013. These reductions to TB spending reveal a large disparity in CIDA’s aid priorities. The proposed cuts to TB amount to a 33 percent reduction in spending, yet CIDA only plans to reduce its overall foreign aid spending by 9.7 percent over the next three years. These disproportionate cuts to TB are unacceptable when global contributions towards control of this disease are demonstrating incredible results and when the return on investment for TB control is so significant. At a time when the world should be scaling up support to eliminate TB we are instead downsizing, putting millions of lives at risk and undermining the gains achieved in the fight against TB over the last decade.
Our Strategy: Keeping Canada Invested in TB
July 22-27th marks the 19th bi-ennial International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C, a time for researchers, policymakers, advocates and activists to come together to discuss the major issues facing the global response to AIDS. TB is a leading killer of people with HIV (more than 350,000 people were dying of HIV-associated TB in 2010) (http://www.who.int/ tb/publications /global_report /2011/gtbr11_full.pdf). Given the deadly synergy between AIDS and TB, it is critical to reinforce the importance of continued investments in global TB control. Canada should reclaim its status as a global leader on tuberculosis control and lead the international charge against tuberculosis. Reversing the proposed cuts to TB spending and continuing to prioritize TB in our multi-lateral aid agenda in future years is the best way to ensure that we boldly support global endeavors to combat infectious diseases of poverty.
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