The following post is brought to you by Steve Lewis, the Global Health Advocacy Manager at RESULTS UK, who last week attended a hearing in European Parliament on ‘Funding crisis at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and its impact on EU countries most affected by multi-drug resistant TB, in particular Romania’:

Last week I was at a discussion in Parliament in Brussels during which European MEPs discussed the disturbing rise in TB in Eastern Europe. One of the worst hit countries is Romania where Romanian MEP Claudiu Tănăsescu told me, “When I used to work as a GP in Romania we believed that TB had been virtually eliminated. But this is not the case.”

Information from various countries has been published recently in our report ‘Bridging the Gap – why the EU must address the funding crisis at the Global Fund to tackle HIV and TB epidemics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia’. The report includes case studies that demonstrate that without the resources to aggressively tackle these two diseases, the region risks undermining the progress made to date.

Since the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria was forced to cancel its last funding round in 2011, many Eastern European and Central Asian countries have been left facing cuts to their programmes and without the means to scale up their responses. This is particularly worrying when it comes to multidrug resistant TB (MDR-TB) whose rates are rising across the region.

In response to these trends, the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) called for an exchange of views on ‘Funding crisis at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and its impact on EU countries most affected by multi-drug resistant TB’. Dr Masoud Dara from WHO Europe warned of the rising rates of drug-resistant TB in Eastern Europe and called for changes to the Global Fund criteria for middle income countries.

Dr Dara emphasised that prevention now saves huge costs on treatment later.  “Spend $1 now on prevention and early diagnosis, to save at least $10 on hospital costs later”, said Dr Dara. Better diagnosis and efficient treatment is essential in order to slow down the alarming increase in drug-resistant TB that is a huge cause for concern in countries such as Moldova, Ukraine and Romania. Eastern Europe and Central Asia have the world’s highest documented rates of MDR-TB.

MEP Tănăsescu says he will not cease to raise awareness about this issue. “Some people think TB only affects people with ‘poor lifestyles’ – by which they often mean Roma, or prisoners or migrants. But TB can affect any of us. I will continue to raise the issue in Parliament. This was a useful exchange of views with MEPS and the European Commission – but soon I hope to raise a resolution in Parliament on this issue. Then MEPS will have to take greater notice.”