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World TB Day 2012 - a shocking summary

The WHO millennium plan for TB intended to reduce rates of TB to 50% what it was in 1990 by 2015. With three years to go to meet this target, TB rates in Africa today are 500% HIGHER than they were in 1990.

Faced with a serious funding shortage, in November 2011 the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria took the unprecedented step of cancelling a round of funding grants. "Without Round 11, no new grants for scale-up will be disbursed until 2014, leaving countries unable to aggressively tackle their epidemics" - so says MSF.

Here are some other statements:

"It's a sad situation when you see someone dying and tell him there are no drugs. Moreover, we do not know when these drugs will be available! I want to assure you, we are going to have far too many MDR" - Allen Magezi, Moxafrica co-ordinator, Kampala, Uganda.

"The response to the drug-resistant tuberculosis epidemic seems to be ineffectual, with [a] projected rapid increase in the global incidence of MDR-TB" - Professor Alimuddin Zumla, University College London Medical School.

"Wherever we look for drug resistant TB we are finding it in alarming numbers, suggesting current statistics may only be scratching the surface of the problem" - Dr Unni Karunakara, MSF President.

"There are many side effects, but I cannot name them all. I forget...sometimes I don't feel like living. I feel very much like dying" - Athong, an MDR-TB patient blogging on the internet.

An MDR-TB patient has to take 8736 toxic pills to complete a course of treatment over two years. In MSF's experience, only 52% survive.

"I might sound to you pessimistic, I am a little because TB is very political and things are moving very slowly; we cannot afford to move slowly anymore, we should not allow it. We need to step up and step up very fast" - Hara Mihalea CHE, MPH blogging from Thailand.

In KwazaZulu Natal, South Africa, MSF has seen "a 211% increase in TB diagnosis PER MONTH" last year - 13% of whom were drug-resistant.

Worldwide less than 5% of TB patients have access to proper diagnosis for drug resistance, and only 10% of MDR-TB patients are estimated to have access to treatment. These figures will be FAR WORSE for Africa.

Until recently we had three classifications for drug resistant TB: DR-TB (resistant to one drug); MDR-TB (multi-drug resistant - to two); and XDR-TB (extensively-drug resistant - resistant to three). We now have two more classifications: XXDR-TB (extremely drug resistant), and TDR-TB (totally drug resistant). The situation is undeniably worsening.

The theme for this year's World TB Day was "Eliminate TB in my Lifetime".

We have to ask: whose life exactly are we talking of?

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