COVID-19 plagues war against Tuberculosis

Heath officials check the listings of people who are to be tested for COVID-19 as well as HIV and Tuberculosis, in downtown Johannesburg Thursday, April 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries were making steady progress in tackling tuberculosis (TB), with a 9% reduction in incidence seen between 2015 and 2019 and a 14% drop in deaths in the same period.

However, a new report from WHO shows that access to TB services remains a challenge, and that global targets for prevention and treatment will likely be missed without urgent action and investments. “Accelerated action is urgently needed worldwide if we are to meet our targets by 2022.”


About 14 million people were treated for TB in the period 2018-2019, just over one-third of the way towards the 5-year target (2018-2022) of 40 million, according to the report. Some 6.3 million people started TB preventive treatment in 2018-2019, about one-fifth of the way towards the 5-year target of 30 million.

In 2020, funding for TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care reached US$ 6.5 billion, representing only half of the US$ 13 billion target agreed by world leaders in the UN Political Declaration on TB.

To reduce the need for visits to health facilities, many countries are encouraging home-based treatment, all-oral treatments for people with drug-resistant TB, provision of TB preventive treatment, and ensuring people with TB maintain an adequate supply of drugs. “These efforts are vital to strengthen health systems, ensure health for all, and save lives.”


A recent progress report from the UN Secretary General outlines 10 priority actions for Member States and other stakeholders to close gaps in TB care, financing and research, as well as advance multisectoral action and accountability, including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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