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PAHO says Caribbean can end tuberculosis by 2030

Friday, March 22, 2019

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WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) —The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says the Caribbean as well as the rest of the Americas, can reach the goal of ending tuberculosis (TB) in the next decade if countries are able to accelerate progress achieved so far, including reducing even more the number of deaths and new cases annually.

Ahead of World TB Day, which is celebrated on March 24, PAHO is urging countries to take the necessary steps to close the gaps in the care of people with tuberculosis, ensure early diagnosis with available new technologies, and work with the most vulnerable populations.

The international health organisation is also calling on sustainable financing for national tuberculosis programmes, “so that countries can reach the goal of ending tuberculosis by 2030.

“While the Region of the Americas has managed to reduce new cases and deaths from tuberculosis in the last 15 years, ending this disease is only possible if progress is accelerated,” said Dr Marcos Espinal, Director of the Department of Communicable Diseases and Environmental Determinants of Health at PAHO.

“Countries should expand access to diagnosis with rapid molecular tests and timely quality treatment for those who need it. They must also work with people, communities and other sectors on the social determinants that facilitate transmission of this disease,” he added.

In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 282,000 new cases of tuberculosis in the Americas, 11 per cent of which were in people living with the HIV virus.

WHO said 87 per cent of cases were concentrated in 10 countries, with Brazil, Colombia, Haiti, Mexico and Peru reporting two thirds of the total cases and deaths.

According to a PAHO report published in September 2018, an estimated 24,000 people died in 2017 from tuberculosis in the region, and 6,000 of them were co-infected with HIV.

PAHO said the slogan for this year’s World TB Day campaign is “It’s time for Action. End TB” adding that this serves as a reminder that fulfilling the commitments made by heads of state in September last year at the first High Level Meeting of the United Nations’ General Assembly on tuberculosis, must be accelerated.

PAHO said at the meeting, world leaders agreed to implement “bold goals and urgent measures to end the disease”.

It said ending the global tuberculosis epidemic is one of the targets of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and that the WHO’s End TB Strategy, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2014, aims to reduce deaths from TB by 90 per cent and the incidence of the disease by 80 per cent by 2030, compared to 2015 levels.

To accelerate progress towards TB elimination, particularly in countries with the greatest disease burden, PAHO recommends: accelerating the implementation of rapid molecular diagnostic tests; promoting tracing contacts of people with TB, particularly those under the age of 15; accelerating the implementation of new medicines; securing national funding rather than depending on external funds; working with vulnerable populations that require a special approach; and having the active participation of civil society.

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