24 March 2014 - BRICS countries have joined together on World TB Day to call for united action against tuberculosis (TB) - a disease responsible for more deaths in the last 200 years than any other disease. By prioritizing TB in domestic investments, BRICS countries aim to control and ultimately eliminate TB.
In November 2013, Ministers of Health from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa issued a statement in Cape Town, South Africa, agreeing to collaborate on improving systems to find and treat patients with TB, improve the supply of TB drugs, and collaborate to develop new drugs and vaccines. BRICS countries have a combined population of almost 3 billion and a combined GDP of (USD) $16 trillion.
On World TB Day on 24th March, BRICS countries are again coming together under the global theme ‘Reaching the missed 3 million TB cases’. The World Health Organization estimates that globally, nine million people a year get sick with TB. But every year a third of them - more than 3 million people - do not receive the TB care they need and are missed by health systems.
These 3 million are among the most vulnerable members of society, including migrants, children, minorities, miners, and refugees. Failure to reach these people has devastating health and economic consequences. BRICS countries have pioneered a variety of successful interventions which are driving progress, but these require domestic investment to be scaled up.
BRICS Ministers of Health are highlighting efforts around World TB Day this year in their countries to advance global progress on TB. They issued the following statements to mark World TB Day:
"Brazil has been very successful in bringing its TB burden down, with a significant decrease in incidence and mortality rates since the mid-90s. The "Parliamentary Alliance against TB" was created by the Brazilian Congress to support TB legislative actions. Brazil has increased funding for TB from $5 million in 2002 to over $70 million in 2013. Today, the national TB program is entirely domestically financed", said Arthur Chioro, Minister of Health from Brazil.
"TB prevention and control in the Russian Federation is among the top national priorities. The last seven years the government assured regular and adequate allocation of financing for TB control related activities and for continuous improvements in the health care for TB patients. Such commitment of the government resulted to almost 50% decline in TB related mortality as compared to its level in 2005", said Professor Veronika Skvortsova, Minister of Health of the Russian Federation.
"Presently, the major objectives are: identification of all TB cases, early diagnosis, timely and high-quality treatment together with appropriate social support for all categories of patients. Special attention must be given to MDR-TB and TB/HIV co-infected patients.
But we are well aware that given the trends of the modern world to globalization and increased migration flows, defeating alone such a formidable foe as tuberculosis becomes an impossible task. BRICS countries could give an example of strengthening of cooperation and partnership for TB control."
The Revised National TB Control Programme has been hailed as one of the most successful public health programmes in the world. Since inception the country has placed more than 17 million patients on treatment thus saving more than 3 million additional lives. India is well on its way to achieving TB related MDGs. The Programme for drug resistant TB was scaled up to entire country by January 2013 has till now placed more than 45000 patients on treatment. However despite these achievements several challenges still need to be addressed.
Speaking at the jubilee celebration of the Tuberculosis Association of India in February, the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, said "global tuberculosis control is unattainable without controlling the incidence of the disease in India". He called for universal access focusing on improved diagnosis of TB patients, vigorously expanding case-finding efforts among the vulnerable, and deploying better diagnostics. "I would urge all the stakeholders to contribute to this noble cause so that the scourge of tuberculosis ceases to be a public health problem in India", said the President.
"China has achieved significant progress over the last 20 years by halving prevalence of the most infectious form of TB and reducing mortality by 80%", says Li Bin, Minister of the NHFPC. "Over the past years China has also taken decisive measures to confront the epidemic of multidrug-resistant TB."
Despite this dramatic success, there are still 1 million new cases of TB per year in China.
"The Government of China is committed to accelerate innovation and implement new approaches and technology to improve diagnosis, treatment, and case management to further control TB and MDR-TB", Li Bin states.
"TB and MDR-TB are prioritised as part of the country’s health work agenda by expanding the health insurance coverage to make sure that all patients and families, especially the poorest, have access to public health and clinical TB and MDR-TB services."
"In South Africa’s mines, as many as one in every 15 miners get sick with TB, which is the highest rate among any population in the world. The head of the TB snake is in South Africa, with its fangs in the country's mines and its tail reaching out to neighbouring countries", said Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, South Africa Minister of Health and Chair of the Stop TB Partnership Board.
"Regional cooperation is critical to solving this issue. South Africa, together with development partners and mining companies is bringing together ministers of health, labour, finance and mines from 15 countries in Southern Africa, for the Symposium on Mining and TB on March 25. This Symposium will drive action and cooperation across borders towards ending this epidemic."
The Stop TB Partnership is leading the way to a world without tuberculosis (TB), a disease that is curable but still kills three people every minute. Together our nearly 1000 partners are a collective force that is transforming the fight against TB in more than 100 countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Global TB Programme guides global action for a world free of TB by advancing universal access to TB prevention, care and control; framing the response to threats through norms, standards and strategy; technically supporting Member States; monitoring the burden and response; and promoting innovation.