Global health experts call for policy shift to revitalize war on Tuberculosis

NAIROBI, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) — Countries accounting for the bulk of tuberculosis infections should embark on policy reforms in order to boost surveillance, diagnosis and treatment of the bacterial disease, experts said on Monday.

The experts who spoke during the virtual launch of Step Up for TB 2020 report said that policy realignment combined with adequate investment in preventive and curative interventions is key to eradicating the highly contagious ailment.

“We need to put the right policies in place to ensure that TB patients have access to the latest diagnostic and treatment options,” said Lucica Ditiu, executive director of Stop TB Partnership.

She said that countries with a high TB burden should abandon outdated policies, practices and treatment regimens that have slowed down progress towards elimination of the disease in line with global targets.

The Stop TB Partnership in conjunction with international medical charity, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) compiled the report which indicates that significant policy gaps and under-funding had derailed the war against the disease.

“National policy reforms are the first step toward achieving the UN High-Level Meeting on TB and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets,” says the report.

“With science delivering hope in the form of new diagnostics and treatments for people affected by TB, these policies must be updated rapidly and consistently to keep pace,” it adds.

The report which examined national policies of 37 countries and regions that account for 77 percent of global TB burden, said that speedy implementation of World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines is key to revolutionizing screening, treatment and management of the disease.

It says that COVID-19 related disruptions could trigger an additional 6.3 million TB cases and 1.4 million deaths from 2020 to 2025.

Tereza Kasaeva, director of WHO Global TB Program said that governments should update policy frameworks, invest in state of the art diagnostic tools and streamline procurement of essential drugs in order to win the war against the disease.

She said that multilateral institutions have supported research and data-driven interventions to improve quality of treatment and care for tuberculosis among patients in low and middle-income countries.

Mark Edington, head of Grants Management at the Global Fund said that a conducive policy environment is key to boosting investments in high-impact TB prevention and treatment interventions.

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