New data show the World Health Organization's simple and cost-effective approach in fighting tuberculosis works.
DOTS, the Stop TB Strategy was launched in 1994. Since then, the World Health Organization says the number of people cured of the disease has increased regularly. And, this, of course, has resulted in many lives being saved.
In 2008, the report finds 2.3 million people were cured of tuberculosis. This translates into an 87 percent cure rate, which, for the first time, exceeds the 85 percent global target set in 1991.
Coordinator of the WHO Stop TB Department, Paul Nunn, says progress also has been made in addressing the lethal combination of TB and HIV. Last year, he says nearly 1.5-million TB patients were tested for HIV, an increase of 200,000.
As a consequence of the screening, he says many TB patients with HIV have been treated for that fatal disease and many lives have been prolonged and saved.
"So, that is the good news, that 15 years of investments are bringing visible results as a result of cooperation between national programs, particularly the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, the Global Fund and other partners," Nunn said. "The bad news is that we still have 1.8-million deaths per year from tuberculosis. Half a million of those associated with HIV."
Despite the progress being made, Dr. Nunn cautions against complacency. He says the tuberculosis epidemic is far from over and is being aggravated by multi-drug resistant TB and its even more dangerous form, extensively drug-resistant TB.
He says the relatively large number of patients who are not being treated properly for tuberculosis is fueling the epidemic.
"The problem with resistance means that we might be facing a situation where our currently, mostly susceptible epidemic is replaced in a decade or two by mostly multi-drug resistant disease," Nunn said. "And since it is so much more expensive and so much more difficult to cure, that would be a catastrophe."
Another problem is money. The World Health Organization says the Stop TB effort needs $2 billion to carry out its TB care and control program in 2010. The World Health Organization warns lack of money will deny the most vulnerable people the treatment they need to save their lives.