Today, the 24th of March 2012, is World TB Day. It is a day when the whole world is reminded of the menace that Tuberculosis (TB) continues to exert on human populations despite the existence of effective control interventions. This year's slogan for World TB day is: "Stop TB in my lifetime". It draws attention to the need for urgent accelerated actions to ensure that today's children live to see a world where no one dies of TB.
TB remains a major public health problem in the African region which accounts for over 25% of notified TB cases every year. Notwithstanding, it is estimated that only 60% of existing TB cases are being detected and that TB kills about 250 000 people a year.
The TB epidemic in Africa is largely driven by poverty and the negative impact of high TB/HIV co-infection. Nearly half of all TB patients in the African Region are also infected with HIV with only 42% of these accessing anti-retroviral treatments.
TB which does not respond to commonly used first line treatment referred to as "Multidrug-resistant TB" (MDR-TB) and TB which does not respond to first line and second line treatment called "Extensively drug-resistant TB" (XDR-TB), remain important challenges to the fight against TB. By the end of 2011, MDR-TB had been reported in forty two countries in the African Region, of which only 28 had national programmes to treat patients suffering from this form of the disease.
TB is curable and medicines are available with support of WHO and partners. It is therefore unacceptable that anyone should still be dying of TB today. Furthermore, all persons living with HIV need to be screened for TB and receive appropriate prevention or TB treatment if needed. By putting these proven strategies into practice to reach all exposed individuals, we will be able to save millions of lives in the long run. It is therefore important that all community based organizations engaged in HIV care, systematically integrate TB control in their daily activities. All children should also be immunized against TB to prevent TB in children.
In commemorating this day, I would like to call on national authorities and development partners to strengthen TB prevention and control initiatives in the Region to stem the tide of this epidemic.
To this end, Member States should work with all Stakeholders to ensure maximum coverage with appropriate strategies to fight TB. This demands that Governments employ innovative partnerships with all including the civil society and private sector. More importantly, national programmes in collaboration with community based organizations should ensure that all uncomplicated TB cases are successfully treated in order to prevent emergence of drug resistant strains. In addition, TB Patients are called upon to adhere to treatment prescribed by health professionals. In countries already reporting MDR and XDR-TB, Member States should take urgent action to identify, quantify and effectively treat drug resistant TB cases in order to interrupt transmission.
In this context, I call upon all Member States, health and development partners to dedicate adequate resources to the fight against TB and to champion the call to attain universal access to TB prevention and control services. This is consistent with the declaration of TB as an emergency by the Regional Committee in August 2005. It is also consistent with the call by Heads of State and Government of the African Union for Universal Access to AIDS, TB and Malaria (ATM) services by 2015.
Together, let us join forces to Stop TB in our lifetime.