The World Health Organization estimates more than four million people go unreported or untreated for the illness each year. Dr Lucica Ditiu, executive director of the Stop TB Partnership, spoke to Development Finance about the crucial reasons for such omission.
“Although great progress was made in the 1990s and early part of the 2000s to expand access to TB services, the reality is that hundreds of millions of people live quite far from the nearest health facility that might be able to diagnose them,” said Dr Ditiu. “The standard TB response has been facility based, passively waiting for people to come seek care.”
The current gap in patient treatment is further complicated by outdated technology used to diagnose TB, which typically fails to detect all cases of the illness. Dr Ditiu remarked that smear microscopy, a procedure that identifies TB in a patient’s sputum, can miss as much as 40 to 50 percent of treatable cases. Information on patients in active care meanwhile remains scarce among private sector firms and institutions. Dr Ditiu said such actors are crucial to engage in order to raise care standards and prevent patients from paying for medicines which are accessible at little or no cost.
“The initiative aims to support countries to understand who are missed, where they live, and why they are missed. This mapping will help to develop and implement interventions that are specific to each of the 13 countries, which account for 75 per cent of missing people with TB globally, that will be supported through this initiative,” commented Mohammed Yassin, senior disease advisor for Tuberculosis at the Global Fund.
The money going into the initiative will be used to engage communities to identify and service vulnerable populations. Helping women and ensuring the preservation of human rights remain priorities and will be essential in spreading knowledge and skills.
Dr Ditiu added: “We have developed a robust and tested system for using the vast amount of data that TB programmes generate through different interventions and use that data for action – choosing the most effective interventions, but also being able to course correct when things do not go as planned. We want to support country programmes to look at their work and take action based on the best strategies available.”
The TB Catalytic Investment initiative comprises: US$115 million in matching funds designed to support country-led programmes; a US$65 million multi-country TB investment for programmes focused on migrant and cross-border issues, the mining sector, refugees, improved laboratory services, and transition to domestically funded health programmes; and the US$10 million TB Strategic Initiative. The 13 countries which are part of the TB Catalytic Investment initiative are Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, Ukraine, Kenya, Mozambique and India.