TB control programmes inadequate - WHO

Several countries in eastern Africa have a high incidence of tuberculosis but have yet to develop effective national strategies to curtail the disease, the United Nations World Health Organization said in its 2007 global TB report, ‘Global tuberculosis control - surveillance, planning, financing’.

Citing Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania as among the 22 countries with a high tuberculosis burden, the WHO said their national plans were not effective enough to combat it. Nigeria and Mozambique are the other African countries on the list.

"Plans for human resource development made by national TB control programmes in 2005-2006 were highly variable in quality. In particular, seven of the 22 high-burden countries, including five African countries, had plans that were limited in scope or underdeveloped," WHO said.

According to the report, HIV testing for TB patients was rising quickly in Africa, but little effort was being made to screen HIV-positive people for TB, although that was a relatively efficient method of finding new cases of tuberculosis.

Facilities for diagnoses and treatment of multi-drug resistant TB were not yet readily available, it added.

''Despite TB treatment being free in all government health facilities, the country continues to witness an increase in TB incidents that have been worsened by HIV/AIDS''

In Kenya, a consortium of NGOs involved in HIV/AIDS control reported that 70 Kenyans die of AIDS daily, yet the disease was preventable and curable.

"Despite TB treatment being free in all government health facilities, the country continues to witness an increase in TB incidents that have been worsened by HIV/AIDS," the Kenya AIDS NGOs said in a statement ahead of World TB Day, which will be marked on Saturday.

"TB control is being hampered by inadequate financial resources that make it difficult to support programmes that would strengthen the health system," they added.

WHO said while the global TB burden was falling, the decline was not fast enough to meet targets set by the Stop TB Partnership [http://www.stoptb.org] to halve the 1990 prevalence and death rates by 2015.

Extensively drug-resistant TB, HIV/AIDS and other obstacles continued to hinder progress in controlling the epidemic, the agency said.

There were an estimated 8.8 million new TB cases around the world in 2005, including 7.4 million in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, according to WHO. A total of 1.6 million people died of TB, including 195,000 patients infected with HIV.

[Full WHO report: www.who.int]

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