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WHO Cites Slow Progress Against Tuberculosis


A World Health Organization report says the rate of tuberculosis infections is going down across the globe, but also notes that progress in the fight against the disease is too slow. VOA's Mandy Clark reports from London.

Tuberculosis is a contagious and deadly airborne bacterial disease that infected more than nine million people in 2006 and killed 1.5 million.

But the latest World Health Organization report has some good news - the rate of TB infection is slowing down.

Speaking at a news conference in London, one of the authors of the report, Katherine Floyd, says if diagnosis of the disease does not improve, progress will grind to a halt.

"In China they find and treat about 80 percent of the cases we estimate exist in China and that did not change between 2005 and 2006 and unless countries find even more on the cases that exist the rate of making progress will not improve," said Katherine Floyd.

The WHO report says this failure to detect new TB cases and a lack of funding for national TB programs are the main reasons for the slow advance in fighting the disease.

The World Health Organization cites a funding gap for global programs of about one-billion dollars. Its report also says a lethal combination of TB and HIV is fueling a tuberculosis epidemic in many parts of the world, especially Africa.

Floyd says treating TB patients infected with HIV remains a challenge, but she says some countries are making strides against this twin disease.

"There has been a lot of progress particularly in Africa in testing TB patients for HIV which actually demonstrates a willingness on the part of TB patients to be tested for HIV," she said. "So that maybe a change that has occurred over the last 5 to 10 years as there is now treatment for HIV there is more reason to know whether you have HIV or not."

The World Health Organization also cites other signs of hope, noting that several regions of the world are on track to achieve global targets to cut cases and deaths in half by 2015 compared to 1990 levels. These areas include Southeast Asia, the western Pacific region, the eastern Mediterranean and the Americas.

But, the report says more funds and commitment to fighting TB are needed if the hardest hit regions hope to defeat the disease.

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