Health advocates: Progress on TB and HIV under threat unless EU steps in

19 September 2012 - Brussels - A reduction in global funding to Eastern European and Central Asian countries is threatening to reverse achievements made against tuberculosis (TB) and HIV and cultivate rising levels of disease and drug-resistance, according to a new report by health non-governmental organizations.

The report, Bridging the Gap, calls on the European Union (EU) to step in to fill the funding gaps in countries within and neighbouring its borders.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria is the largest and most important international donor for TB and HIV in the European region, the report says. But due to funding shortfalls and changes in eligibility criteria that are restricting funds being made available to middle income countries, Eastern Europe and Central Asian (EECA) countries will not have the funds required to aggressively tackle their TB and HIV epidemics.

"The reality is that many national governments are unable or unwilling to fill gaps left by a reduction in Global Fund support," said Aaron Oxley, Executive Director of RESULTS UK. "This is an issue where the EU has a unique opportunity to demonstrate leadership and to ensure these vulnerable populations are not abandoned."

A failure to provide adequate funding for HIV and TB programmes in the European region will inevitably contribute to increasing rates of disease and drug-resistance, the authors of the report argue. This will cost lives and cause a drain on the European region’s economy due to increased treatment costs and lost productivity.

"Thanks to the support of the Global Fund, we have been able to make real progress in our responses to TB and HIV," said Patrick Bertrand, Executive Director, Global Health Advocates France. "Diseases do not respect borders, and in order to address global health issues such as TB and HIV, the European Union must pay attention to what is happening both within its Member States and its neighbours. Now is not the time to falter and allow for all the progress we’ve made to be lost."

In September 2011 the World Health Organization's Regional Office for Europe launched an ambitious plan to halt the spread of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB).

The Consolidated Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Multidrug- and Extensively Drug-resistant Tuberculosis in the WHO European Region 2011 - 2015 sets out to prevent 263 000 cases of MDR-TB and XDR-TB and 120 000 deaths from the two conditions.