ISLAMABAD - Though Pakistan ranks 6th among the highest Tuberculosis-hit countries of the world but it is hoped the total number of TB patients would be reduced to the minimum, as the country is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal to reverse the spread of TB by 2015 due to sustained efforts of National TB Control Pogramme.

Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC), Mir Hazar Khan Bijrani shared the information with the media persons at a press conference Saturday. The press conference was being organised in order to brief media regarding the achievements of Tuberculosis Care in Pakistan done by the National TB Control Program, Ministry of Inter provincial Coordination (IPC) in connection with World TB Day. Secretary of IPC Anees ul Hasnain Musvi, National Manager of National TB Control Program Dr Ejaz Qadeer also spoke on the event.

The minister said 22 countries referred to as high-burden countries account for 80 per cent of the world’s total TB burden. Certain highly populous countries of Asia namely, India, China, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan, have the highest number of cases, and together account for more than half the global burden.

He said TB or Tape Dik has history of centuries and was even found in Egyptian mummies. It is not uncommon in Pakistan either and every year, more than 420,000 people become victims of this disease in our country despite the fact that it can easily be prevented and treated. The minister sharing some of the key successes of National TB Control Programme established in 1960s with support of international partner organisations said in previous years more than 1.2 million TB patients have been provided treatment under the programme free of cost. The Programme provides TB diagnosis and treatment services through government health facilities across the country through 5000 centres in 135 districts.

‘In 2011 alone; in addition to existing TB services; 34 tertiary care hospitals in the country have been equipped to provide TB treatment to TB patients including services for children TB. More than 500 patients of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB), which is a difficult and very expensive disease to treat; have been put on treatment in 5 major hospitals in the country’.

In addition to this, TB laboratories have been upgraded with new equipment; collaboration with private health sector like Agha Khan University has been developed; doctors, paramedics and programme management staff have been trained and agreement has also been signed with Geneva based Global Drug Facility/IDA for the procurement of drugs for MDR-TB, he aded. TB is an infectious disease and any one can get TB. He requested the media persons to help disseminate information about TB prevention and control in the country. He wanted them to convey important messages to general public and everyone else ‘TB is a curable disease and its diagnosis and treatment is free of cost.

TB diagnosis and treatment is available at nearest Government health facility’.

National Manager of the Program Dr. Ejaz Qadeer said the goal of the project is to contribute towards reducing the burden of TB in Pakistan by 2015 in line with the Millennium Development Goals. One of the key milestones achieved in Pakistan’s fight against TB dates back to 2005, when the Programme , in partnership with its provincial counterparts, achieved 100 percent DOTS (Directly-Observed Treatment Short-Course) coverage in health facilities within the public sector health care delivery system.

‘This achievement demonstrated the country’s seriousness to reach the targets enshrined in the global Stop TB Strategy, which envisages detection of 70 percent of new sputum smear-positive TB cases and a treatment success rate of at least 85 percent government responded to the rising burden of TB by declaring it a national public health emergency’.

He informed that the Global Fund, a consortium of international donor agencies, has committed $ 170 million five year grant for the programme and of them three years grant while the country is receiving free drugs worth $ 3-4 million per annum for the treatment of TB from World Health Organization (WHO) apart from government funding.

World TB Day, falling on March 24th each year, is designed to build public awareness that tuberculosis today remains an epidemic in much of the world, causing the deaths of several million people each year, mostly in developing countries. 2012 is the third year campaign of the Stop TB Partnership, the Slogan of this year is ‘Stop TB in my lifetime and focus on the childhood TB’. The World TB Day Campaign 2012 will allow people all over the world to make an individual call to stop TB in their lifetimes, he added.

He said series of activities by both public and private sector partners will take place all over Pakistan including Punjab, Sindh, NWFP, Balochistan, FATA, GB and AJK in connection with WTD 2012.