Friday, 24 March 2023

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Tuberculosis (TB) has been the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent, ranking above HIV/AIDS for a long time. And, presently, Asia Pacific is right in the thick of it. South-eastern Asia (SEA) is home to 26 per cent of the world’s population with a 43 per cent burden of TB incidence, according to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global TB report 2021. Over the last three years, countries around the world, including in Asia and the Pacific, have faced double pandemics –COVID-19 and TB. Unfortunately, during this time, progress toward TB elimination stalled and, in some cases, reversed. COVID-19 made it harder for people to access TB diagnostics and care, eading to increases in cases and deaths since 2019. Four countries, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar accounted for most of the estimated increase in TB deaths, globally, in 2021. Not all is lost though. The countries in the region, especially India and Indonesia, have renewed their efforts to eliminate TB. India launched the TB Free India campaign – a plan to eliminate tuberculosis by 2025, five years ahead of the target set by the UN’s sustainable development goals. Indonesia received a $300 million loan from the World Bank to improve overage, quality and efficiency of TB response in the country. When observing World TB day this year on March 24, let’s take stock of the progress made by Asian countries in eliminating this dreaded disease and the way forward.


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