Rate of TB treatment declines

March 24, 2021

An estimated 1.4 million fewer people received care for tuberculosis (TB) in 2020 than in 2019, according to preliminary data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) from over 80 countries – a reduction of 21% from 2019, according to a news release from the WHO.

The countries with the biggest relative gaps were Indonesia (42%), South Africa (41%), Philippines (37%) and India (25%).

“The effects of COVID-19 go far beyond the death and disease caused by the virus itself. The disruption to essential services for people with TB is just one tragic example of the ways the pandemic is disproportionately affecting some of the world’s poorest people, who were already at higher risk for TB,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, WHO Director-General.

While some countries have already taken steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on service delivery, by strengthening infection control, expanding use of digital technologies to provide remote advice and support, and providing home-based TB prevention and care, many people who have TB are unable to access the care they need, the WHO said.

The WHO also noted that this not a new problem: before COVID-19 struck, the gap between the estimated number of people developing TB each year and the annual number of people officially reported as diagnosed with TB was about 3 million. The pandemic has greatly exacerbated the situation.

One way to address this is through restored and improved TB screening to rapidly identify people with TB infection or TB disease. On world TB day, which is March 24, the WHO also released new guidance with information to help countries identify the specific needs of communities, the populations at highest risk of TB, and the locations most affected to ensure people can access the most appropriate prevention and care services.

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