December 2009 -- As the year draws to a close we are approaching an important watershed. 2010 is the halfway mark for the Global Plan to Stop TB 2006-2015.
This is a moment to ask ourselves, How far have we come in our fight against TB?
We have sought to provide some answers to this question through the progress reportwe issued last month. The Global Plan to Stop TB 2006-2015: Progress Report 2006-2008
Testing for drug resistance has increased almost threefold, and many countries have increased national collaborative activities to address HIV among people diagnosed with TB. Between 2005 and 2007 the percentage of TB patients tested for HIV in African countries with a high prevalence of HIV rose from 14% to 41%.
On the research front, nine vaccine candidates are in Phase I clinical trials, and by end 2008 three had entered Phase II trials. These are impressive gains, since the Plan calls for at least 20 vaccine candidates in Phase I trials by 2015. In diagnosis, new techniques have been introduced to referral laboratories that produce results in a few hours instead of weeks. On treatment, clinical trials by Stop TB partners on gatifloaxacin and moxifloaxacin may provide evidence for a shortened regimen for treating TB.
Despite these strides many obstacles remain. The detection of new smear-positive TB cases has slowed, suggesting that the 2010 milestone of a 78% detection rate will not be achieved unless countries take rapid and innovative actions and actively engage all sectors of society. The great majority of people with multidrug-resistant TB are still not receiving effective treatment; and countries have not made sufficient progress in screening HIV-positive people for TB or increasing the numbers of people on preventive therapy.
Research efforts need to accelerate to develop and evaluate tests to detect active TB at the first point of care; to develop a robust pipeline of new drug candidates; and to reach the goal of a new vaccine by 2015.
Funding remains the most serious challenge. From 2006-2008, the financing needs for funding TB control worldwide was short by $US 1 billion per year. The gap for research and development was approximately US$ 0.5 billion for 2007.
The greatest hope for fulfilling the goals of the Global Plan lies in the growing strength of the Partnership. The number of partners in Stop TB grew from 463 in 2005 to more than 1000 as of this month. And 2009 saw the launch of six new national partnerships -- in Afghanistan, the Dominican Republic, Morocco, Nigeria, Swaziland and Syria.
Some 1300 people demonstrated their commitment to Stop TB through their attendance at the font-family:Verdana;color:blue'> Stop TB Partners’ Forum. Their vigorous and enthusiastic efforts at the forum engendered the Rio Recommendations -- which will give guidance to the Coordinating Board, Working Groups, Constituencies, Secretariat and other partnership bodies on actions required to address the concerns and priorities of Stop TB Partners for the next five years.
As we step boldly into 2010, I wish to congratulate partners and other friends for their achievements and thank them for their tireless efforts and dedication to stopping TB. We hope you will start the New Year refreshed and ready to continue the long fight we face to achieve a world free of TB.