Tuberculosis: every patient must be effectively diagnosed and have access to treatment

“Tuberculosis, which caused 1.7 million deaths worldwide in 2016, represents a growing threat to public health, especially in Europe, where rates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis are the highest in the world,” warned the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, meeting today in Paris.

Describing tuberculosis as a “social” disease, the committee pointed out that it mainly affected disadvantaged groups such as homeless people, drug users, people living with HIV, prisoners, refugees and migrants, adding that stigma associated with tuberculosis and social isolation often led to non-adherence to treatment, a major factor in drug resistance.

Adopting the report by Serhii Kiral (Ukraine, EC) on the issue, the committee called on member States to take steps to ensure that every tuberculosis patient is effectively diagnosed, including for different strains of the disease. Once diagnosed, the report says, it is crucial that patients are adequately treated and monitored so that they finish their medication; treatment completion is essential to ensure recovery and prevent the development of resistant bacteria.

Parliamentarians also advocated psycho-social support for patients and integrated health services involving government agencies, local authorities and civil society organisations. In addition, tuberculosis care should be provided mainly in ambulatory and community settings, limiting hospitalisation, underlines the adopted text.

The commission recommended improving early detection mechanisms for the disease, by investing in case-finding among socially vulnerable groups, and investing in research and development for new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines.

Finally, the committee strongly encouraged the Heads of State of the Council of Europe member States to attend the United Nations high level meeting on the fight against tuberculosis in 2018.

The theme of the World Tuberculosis Day on 24 March – “Wanted: Leaders for a TB-free world” – focuses on building commitment to end tuberculosis, not only at the political level, but also at the level of civil society advocates, patients, doctors and health workers.