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Romanian NGOs call on decision makers to save lives

Originally appeared on the TB Europe Coalition website.

The Romanian Stop TB Campaign has launched a TB awareness campaign in Romania calling on Romanian decision makers to step up and to save lives. The main goals of the campaign are to raise awareness and to urge the Government and decision makers to approve and fully fund Romania’s proposed national multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) plan for 2012-15.

Campaign for TB-free RomaniaRomania has by far the greatest burden of TB of any country within the European Union. In 2010, 25,000 people developed TB and 1,500 people died from this curable and preventable disease. Romania has the highest TB incidence rate in the EU with 116.5 cases per 100,000. By contrast, Romania’s incidence rate is twenty times greater than some other EU member states, such as Germany or Denmark.

Romania’s failure to adequately tackle TB had led to rising rates of drug resistant strains. Drug resistance occurs in areas of weak TB control where TB cases are inadequately managed. Current TB treatment requires patients to take a 6-9 month long drug regimen. Drug stock-outs and a failure to ensure that patients take their medication correctly can result in the emergence of drug resistant strains of TB. Multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) occurs when strains are resistant to one or more first line drugs used to treat the disease. Currently, six percent of all new TB cases in Romania are multi-drug resistant. MDR-TB strains are much more difficult, sometimes even impossible, and much more costly to treat.

Romania’s Stop TB campaign has warned that Romania is on the verge of developing a major public health problem due to chronic under-funding of its National TB Control Programme and a lack of social support measures for patients with TB.

Lucica Ditiu, the executive director of the Stop TB Partnership, attended the press conference and told the Romanian Government that, “There are solutions. In my view, political will and support are the main things needed. It will require the focused attention of decision makers in the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance and other stakeholders to understand what these data mean and the impact each person who is not properly diagnosed or treated for TB and MDR-TB has on the rest of the population. They also need to urgently understand the real financial costs of inaction. The cost of diagnosing and treating MDR-TB is up to 100 times higher than for drug sensitive TB.”

The time to act is now. A national MDR-TB plan already exists. Romanian decision makers have a unique opportunity to capitalise on this opportunity by fully financing and implementing the plan and seizing the chance to make real inroads against TB and MDR-TB.