US $48 Million To Help The Fight Against Tuberculosis

At the close of the 44th Union World Conference on Lung Health, held in Paris, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) announced that it has received US $48 million in new funds for TB control in some of the world’s hardest-hit countries and to continue critical areas of operational research. The Global Fund pumped in US $40.05 million for the Union’s TB control activities in India (Project Axshya) and Myanmar (PICTS); while the USAID renewed funding of US $8.30 million for the TREAT TB initiative of the Union. The two together amount to a funding of US $48 million. 

Obviously, Jose Luis Castro, Interim Executive Director of The Union, is elated. He said that, “This announcement is the perfect way to round off what has been a stimulating and informative conference. I am pleased to be able to announce the allocation of more than US $48 million, money that will be used to bolster the fight against TB in countries with a high burden of the disease."

Project Axshya (which means TB Free in Hindi ) in India is a major initiative that strengthens TB care and control in 300 districts across 21 states of India. With some 2 million new cases of Tuberculosis yearly, India bears the highest burden of TB globally, and has among the highest number of MDR-TB patients.  Additional funding of $30.45 million over the next two years from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (The Global Fund) is likely to expand access to TB information and services; increase the reach of the National Programme and empower civil society and people affected by TB.  This additional funding is part of Phase Two of the A2-rated, Round 9 Grant to Project Axshya.  Coordinated by The Union South-East Asia Office in New Delhi, and implemented through nine partners, this grant works with over 1200 NG0s and 3,000 CBOs. Axshya prioritises vulnerable populations and people living in hard-to-reach geographic areas who have the greatest difficulty in accessing diagnosis and treatment for TB.  This includes women, children, tribal communities, urban slum dwellers and migrant populations.

PICTS (Programme to Increase Catchment of TB Suspects) was launched in Myanmar (another high TB burden country) in 2012 by the Union in collaboration with the government and People Affected by TB (PATB) community. Initially funded by TB REACH, and currently co-funded by the Union’s Headquarters, it will now continue with support from the Global Fund from 2014 -2016.  Across the seven townships of Mandalay, PICTS has deployed thousands of volunteers to reinforce case finding and access to diagnosis by increasing community awareness of TB through mass communications, decentralisation of symptom screening, sputum collection closer to the community and referral to Township Health Centres. Through TB REACH, The Union also initiated the use of new diagnostic technologies, such as fluorescent microscopy and GeneXpert MTB/RIF.  As the result of these efforts, 35,907 people with possible TB were screened and 2,084 cases of TB diagnosed, including 808 bacteriologically confirmed cases.

The Union’s TREAT TB (Technology, Research, Education and Technical Assistance for Tuberculosis) initiative has received US $8.3 million for 2013-14 to build on its landmark clinical trial, STREAM, which began patient recruitment in 2012.  The STREAM clinical trial compares a shortened 9month MDR-TB treatment regimen with the standard, WHO-recommended 24 month regimen. The results, which will be available in 2016, will shape global treatment guidelines for MDR-TB.

Funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), TREAT TB is led by The Union, with a core team of international research partners and Ministries of Health, as well as strategic partners at regional and national levels, who are uniquely positioned to plan and implement research activities.

It is hoped that these grants will not only help in diagnosing more people with TB but also bridge the wide gap between those diagnosed and those put on treatment, especially in the case of drug resistant TB. We cannot but agree with the words of Jose Luis Castro-- “We look forward to hearing about the progress of these projects at next year's Union World Conference on Lung Health in Barcelona."

Citizen News Service - CNS
November 2013