TB _IN-EECAThe West cannot ignore a growing TB crisis in EECA, says Michel D. Kazatchkine, the former Global Fund Executive Director, and now a UN Secretary General‘s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, in his recent Huffington Post blog

Recalling his recent trip to Uzbekistan, where he was on a mission devoted to HIV/AIDS, TB and MDR-TB, Michel Kazatchkine talks about a surprise to him “to hear medical students in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital city, claiming in a unanimous voice that they see “phtisiology” as the most exciting professional future they wish to consider at the end of their studies” (the term used in Russian is ‘phtisiathry’ – ftiziatria – from Greek фθίσις — ‘spitting blood’ and ἰᾱτρεία — to cure, treat – a branch of clinical care that deals with Tuberculosis, common in all countries of the former USSR).

Speaking on his visit to the Republican Scientific and Practical Centre of Phtisiatry and Pulmonology in Tashkent – which is also the reference point for TB in Uzbekistan – (the official web-site of the Centre is available in Russian), M.Kazatchkine commends the Head of the Centre, Professor Tillyashaikhov Nigmatovich, on the 800-beds in-patient facility, on ambulatory sections, a pediatric section, remarkable laboratory and imaging facilities, and access to the latest technologies and structural hospital requirements for TB and MDR-TB.

However, M.Kazatchkine finds it unsettling to discover why Uzbekistan has built an institution such as this Centre and why young doctors perceive TB care as an attractive and contemporary field of medicine.

Uzbekistan is among the fifteen countries in the EECA region that among the high MDR-TB burden countries in the world, where the disease is a leading killer among the people living with HIV (PLHIV). Around 76,400 people in the WHO European region are estimated to fall sick with MDR-TB every year.

In 2012, only 339 of an estimated 7600 cases of extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) were detected, owing to limited diagnostic capacity.

“Although new technologies are now available to diagnose TB and test for TB drug susceptibility / resistance, the reality is that less than 50 per cent of the estimated new cases of MDR-TB are diagnosed across the region. And only half or less of those patients in need of treatment are actually treated and cured. Those who are not treated remain contagious and they also die. This nothing short of a crisis, one we have to stop neglecting.”

Tuberculosis is at a crisis point in EECA and it is a crisis that the West can no longer afford to ignore. M.Kazatchkine’s post ends with the hope that the issue begins to receive the attention it deserves at international forums such as the upcoming 45th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Barcelona.

Several TBEC members are to attend the Union Conference, and we will bring fresh updates from them to this site.