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Breaking news from the Stop TB Partnership

The Stop TB Partnership made two exciting announcements today:

1. US$ 40 million committed to roll-out of Xpert

The executive board of UNITAID today approved funding of US$ 30 million to scale up access to Xpert MTB/RIF, and reduce the cost of its use. In addition, the Stop TB Partnership’s TB REACH initiative, which is, supported by the Canadian Government, will co-fund up to US$ 10 million for the implementation of the tests in countries, drawing upon its experience gained so far in the early introduction of the test in selected countries. To date, TB REACH has been the single largest supporter of Xpert roll out in multiple countries.

We are delighted that UNITAID has approved this project on Xpert, which will make this innovative diagnostic test available to some of the most vulnerable people in the world, providing great opportunities to save more lives. This will accelerate our efforts to reach the 3 million people who fail to access accurate TB diagnosis and high-quality treatment every year.

In particular, the test will equip us to find TB among children and people living HIV – in whom the disease is not easily diagnosed through other available methods. Also, because Xpert detects resistance to rifampicin, which is a strong indicator for multidrug resistance, this means we will find more MDR-TB. It is essential that all people diagnosed with TB or MDR-TB have access to high-quality treatment and care.

Through the agreement reached by UNITAID, the United States Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the manufacturer of Xpert, Cepheid, will significantly reduce the price of diagnostic cartridges from today’s $17 to less than $10. This price reduction will allow an accelerated roll-out of the test, which was endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2010. It will apply to more than 145 purchasers in low and middle income countries, including those with high-burden of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and co-infection of HIV and tuberculosis.

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2. Dramatic results from TB REACH mHealth project make case for wider implementation

Mobile phones and financial incentives helped a network of private clinics serving poor communities in Karachi find twice as many people with tuberculosis (TB) in 2011 compared to the previous year.

This is the key finding of a study published today in Lancet Infectious Diseases, which reports on the impact of a project run by Karachi’s Indus Hospital and funded by the Stop TB Partnership’s TB REACH initiative.

The clinics provided community members with electronic scorecards on mobile phones which they used to identify people who should get a TB test. The community members received cash incentives for each person with TB that they helped to find. In addition, posters, television advertisements and flyers encouraged people with a persistent cough to visit their local clinic for TB testing.

As a result of these activities, the project identified 3140 people with TB among nearly one million people in the Korangi and Bin Qasim neighbourhoods of Karachi. This made the Indus Hospital the second largest provider of TB care in the country in 2011. In a neighbouring control area comprising the Landhi and Shah Faisal districts, which together have a similar population, the number of people referred for treatment decreased by 9%.

mHealth is emerging as one of the most potent weapons in the fight against TB. With these results from Karachi, there is now clear proof that using mobile phones and engaging with the private sector can help us to find and treat the estimated three million people a year that fail to access quality TB care.

As this project demonstrates, through TB REACH we are incubating innovations that have the potential to be scaled up through national health programmes or further donor funding, . We will soon issue a third call for TB REACH proposals that will launch a new wave of innovative projects, including many that feature mHealth components.”

The Stop TB Partnership’s TB REACH initiative funds innovative projects that result in early and increased detection of TB cases and ensure their timely treatment. Funded by a grant from the Canadian International Development Agency, TB REACH has so far funded 75 projects in 36 countries. The first wave of projects contributed to a 34% increase in the number of people found with TB in a population of more than 100 million people.

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