Page last updated at 11:28 GMT, Friday, 27 January 2006

Analysis: 'Marathon' fight against TB

David Loyn
By David Loyn
BBC Developing World correspondent

An ambitious new global plan to tackle tuberculosis (TB) has been unveiled at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The "Stop TB" coalition, led by the World Health Organisation, is appealing for $56bn to be committed by 2015.

Wife and child of TB patient (second right) look on as he waits to see a doctor in India
The UK has just committed extra funds to fighting TB in India
The date is significant because it was the target date set at the UN's Millennium Summit for improvement in a number of development areas.

The Millennium Development Goal for TB is that by then the world would have "halted and begun to reverse" the disease.

Leaders of Stop TB say that 14 million lives could be saved if the plan is implemented, but they say that this is "a marathon not a sprint".

TB is a complex disease, prevalent in many parts of the world, with drug-resistant strains spreading, especially in China, India and Russia. It is one of the biggest killers of people who are HIV positive.

A survey by a Stop TB working group said that "drug-resistant forms of TB are more common than currently estimated".

There are increasing fears that in places with poor health care the problem is even worse.

"It is expected that many of the areas not reporting data and with chequered histories of TB control have even more severe epidemics."

Fund-raising

The new plan will include funding for new diagnostic tests, and the introduction of a new drug - the first new anti-TB drug to be introduced for 40 years.

Stop TB are also hoping to introduce a new and far cheaper vaccine by 2015.

Bill Gates at Davos

But raising the huge amounts of money they need will be hard. Major fund-raising appeals to combat HIV/Aids and malaria have not raised the sums required.

Less than half of the money for the Stop TB appeal has so far been promised.

Britain has just committed more than 40m ($71m) to tackle TB in India, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, was on the platform for the launch of the Stop TB appeal in Davos.

With him was the head of Microsoft, Bill Gates, who has been prominent in raising money to combat disease, particularly in Africa.

Mr Gates said that there was too much disparity between how we value life in rich and poor countries.

"In health, there's real problems in that the people who have these diseases don't have the money to justify the investment."

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