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Indonesia worried TB fight might be overshadowed JAKARTA - Indonesia's battle against tuberculosis, which kills one person every four minutes in the country, should not be overshadowed by other high-profile diseases such as bird flu, the health minister said on Wednesday. Indonesia has the most deaths from bird flu with 57 fatalities since 2005 and has become one of the frontlines of the battle to prevent a possible human pandemic in which millions could die.

Much funding and attention, including from international donors, have been directed at efforts to tackle the spread of the H5N1 bird flu virus in Indonesia. In contrast, about 140,000 Indonesians die every year from tuberculosis (TB). "We do not prioritise a fight against one disease and set aside others," Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said in a news conference after opening a regional meeting on tuberculosis.

"At the moment, the bird flu fight is taking a lot of attention but we have other sections within the ministry that also deal with TB or other diseases," she said. "The world is focusing on Indonesia for many competing health issues, with the danger that tuberculosis maybe forgotten." At the meeting, leading health officials called for the fight against TB in Asia to be made a top priority, especially the region's vulnerability to HIV-related TB and drug-resistant TB.

"We know that TB has become a global pandemic due to the disease's deadly synergy with HIV, as well as the woefully inadequate investment in TB control, surveillance and research," Jorge Sampaio, the United Nations Secretary-General's special envoy to stop TB, said in a speech. Indonesia's health minister said her office had no programme in place to detect TB/HIV and said more resources were needed to cut the death rate in the country of 220 million people.

Sampaio, a former Portuguese president, said 55 percent of the world's multi-drug resistant TB cases were found in India and China. The poor were the main victims of tuberculosis, said Samlee Plianbangchang, Southeast Asia regional director of the World Health Organisation.

"The key issue before us is whether we have the means to implement the new 'stop TB strategy' successfully over the next 10 years. One of the main concerns is to reach the unreached; the poor, underserved and marginalised," he said. The WHO says big investments are needed to develop diagnostics in low- and middle-income countries, where three-quarters of screenings take place for the respiratory disease, which claims 1.7 million lives a year globally.



Posted in Health @ 29 November 2006 12:49 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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