12 October 2017 | Press release

New Unitaid grants reach out to children with tuberculosis

Jaba Khijakadze, a 9-year old boy with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis at the paediatric TB hospital in Tbilisi, Georgia. (Image: Mzia Lekveishvili/Unitaid)

Geneva Unitaid’s Executive Board has approved two new grants worth a combined US$ 43.7 million to prevent tuberculosis in vulnerable populations, with an emphasis on curbing the devastating effects of TB on children.

The grants join two others approved in September to fund a US$ 117 million slate of new projects aimed at fighting the world’s leading infectious killer. The announcement coincides with a Unitaid event being held at the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“Every day, more than 200 children under the age of 15 die needlessly from TB, which is 200 deaths too many,” said Lelio Marmora, Unitaid Executive Director. “Integrating TB treatment into existing HIV and maternal and child health services will reach more children with life-saving treatment sooner.”

One of the two newly approved grants will provide US$ 36.3 million to improve treatment services, and the market, for child-friendly TB medicines, in India and nine African countries. Project leader Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) will work to reach undiagnosed children by incorporating TB screening into services for HIV, nutrition, and maternal and child health. If the project is eventually scaled up globally, EGPAF estimates that over 500,000 lives could be saved over the five years following the project.

“Children with TB represent one of the most neglected and vulnerable populations in the world,” said Chip Lyons, EGPAF President and CEO. “EGPAF is proud to partner with Unitaid on this project that will expand our existing HIV prevention and treatment services to implement more effective diagnosis, treatment and care for children with active and latent TB.”

The second of the newly approved grants provides US$ 7.4 million to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global TB Programme as it works to improve the diagnosis and treatment of paediatric, latent and multidrug-resistant TB in high-burden countries. WHO will ensure that evidence generated from Unitaid investments is quickly put into global practice.

“The WHO Global TB Programme applauds Unitaid for this unprecedented move to enhance collaboration with WHO to combat TB,” said Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme. “Through this grant we will ensure that all TB-funded projects are structured and monitored in a way that outcomes are rapidly translated into innovative policies. I am particularly pleased with the decision to support work on latent TB infection, an orphan area which urgently requires generating stronger evidence for wider implementation.”

In 2015, 1.8 million people died of TB, about one person every 18 seconds. Without treatment, 45 percent of people with TB will die, as well as nearly all HIV-positive people with TB. WHO estimates that one million children developed TB in 2015, but more than half did not receive the diagnosis and treatment they needed, mostly those living in the poorest and most vulnerable households.

The pair of TB grants approved in September went to the Aurum Institute in South Africa (US$ 58.8 million) and the University of Bordeaux (US$ 14.6 million). The Aurum Institute will work with partners in a dozen countries in Africa, Asia and South America to expand short-course preventive therapy for two groups at especially high risk for TB: people living with HIV and children under five years old. The University of Bordeaux will concentrate on widening the availability of childhood TB diagnosis in six African countries and Cambodia, using fast, state-of-the-art tests that can be performed even in small local clinics.

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