Washington, DC, March 23, 2016 (PAHO/WHO) – On World Tuberculosis Day, held every March 24, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is calling on the countries of the Americas to work together to end TB by 2030.
This year’s slogan is Unite to End Tuberculosis and refers to the need for governments, parliamentarians, health workers, communities, the private sector and civil society to work collectively on prevention and control of the disease, an effort that goes beyond the capabilities of the health sector.
“TB is not only a medical problem, it is also a social problem because it is related to poverty, marginalization and poor living conditions, and as such, needs to be addressed by society,” said Marcos Espinal, director of PAHO/WHO’s Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis.
The Americas have permanently reduced new cases of tuberculosis (incidence rate) and reduced deaths (mortality rate) by more than half between 1990 and 2014, as a region reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target related to tuberculosis.
With the new global goal of the post-2015 and the End TB Strategy, WHO seeks to end the disease in the next 20 years.
However, an estimated 280,000 people still get sick each year, with 23,000 people dying from tuberculosis in the region.
To advance on this path, health authorities in the Americas last year set the goal of reducing the death rate from tuberculosis by at least 24% by 2019.
To achieve this goal, the PAHO Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Tuberculosis provides for an intensified focus on the patient, increased research on prevention and control of tuberculosis, the mobilization of new funding for initiatives implemented against tuberculosis and aims to ensure that both communities and different sectors are involved in these efforts.
“We must focus efforts on groups that are most at risk of contracting the disease in our region, such as people with HIV, people in urban slums, persons deprived of their liberty, indigenous people, children, the homeless and those with addiction problems,” said Mirtha Del Granado, PAHO/WHO regional advisor on tuberculosis.
She added that full funding for national TB programs to ensure access to diagnosis and quality treatment is one of the aspects necessary to end the disease.
Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that usually affect the lungs. It is transmitted from person to person through the air when a patient with pulmonary tuberculosis coughs, sneezes or spits.
Symptoms include coughing, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats.
TB can be treated and cured with special drugs administered for six consecutive months under the supervision of health care personnel and social support for the patient to facilitate compliance and prevent generated resistance to drugs and the spread of infection.
It is estimated that between 2000 and 2014, 43 million lives were saved worldwide through the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis.