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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Aug. 3) – The Third Pacific STOP TB meeting ended in New Caledonia today with representatives of Health Ministries from 20 Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) calling for further strengthening of measures to control tuberculosis (TB) in the region, a Secretariat of the Pacific Community and World Health Organization media release announced.

Having successfully met the World Health Organization's (WHO) 2005 targets for TB control, the Pacific Islands are now confronted with the challenge of making an impact on the TB burden. The aim is to halve the number of TB cases and deaths by 2010 compared with figures for 2000.

The meeting, which was the second of three TB meetings being held this week at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community's (SPC) headquarters, reviewed the implementation of TB treatment and control activities in the Pacific and used the results as a planning guide for achieving the 2010 targets.

"TB control in the Pacific received a substantial boost in 2003 when 10 Pacific Island countries and territories received financial support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria," noted Dr Jimmie Rodgers, Director-General of SPC. "This funding has allowed countries to accelerate their implementation of DOTS (directly observed treatment, short-course therapy) and helped achieve the 2005 targets."

By the end of 2005, Pacific Island countries collectively exceeded the case detection target of 70% and the treatment success rate target of 85%, and had achieved 100% DOTS coverage. These countries now face the challenge of sustaining these achievements and strengthening political commitment to meeting the 2010 regional goals.

"The job is not yet done," said Dr Pieter van Maaren, Regional Adviser for Stop TB in the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific. "This is no time for complacency. We will continue to work with our partners to support TB control efforts in this region, recognising that the Pacific is a special place with special needs that require special attention."

Challenges include increasing case detection; ensuring quality of TB services and equitable access; intensifying efforts to involve the private sector and the community; and responding to the emerging threats of multi-drug resistant TB and TB/HIV co-infection.

To coordinate action to reduce the threat of co-infection, SPC will host the first TB/HIV Co-infection Meeting for PICTs from 3 to 4 August.

The series of TB meetings, jointly organised by SPC and WHO, are also being attended by representatives from AusAID, NZAID, United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and TB laboratories in Australia and New Zealand.

August 4, 2006


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