The World Health Organisation (WHO) Monday hailed the progress of governments of Western Pacific countries in fighting tuberculosis (TB), but warned that the region needed greater effort to effectively control the disease.
The region has successfully met the WHO's 2005 target of detecting at least 70 percent of TB cases and curing at least 85 percent of infections, said Pieter van Maaren, regional adviser for the health body's TB programme.
He was speaking at a three-day WHO meeting on TB held in Malaysia's eastern city of Kuching on Borneo Island.
TB control efforts in the region were intensified following the declaration of a TB crisis in 1999 and funding to affected countries was increased.
However, despite the positive trend in eradicating TB, van Maaren warned that the region was still far from achieving its 2010 goal of reducing TB deaths by half, compared to the 2000 levels.
In recent years, over 3.5 million TB cases and nearly 300,000 deaths have been recorded in the region, he was quoted as saying in a WHO statement.
"We clearly still have a lot of work to do before we can meet the goal we have set for ourselves," he said.
He cited problems such as limited access to health services, the emergence of multidrug-resistant TB, HIV-associated TB epidemics, inadequate engagement of all care providers and lack of adequate human resources that needed to be overcome.
A rise in TB cases was due to lack of activities to address the link between the spreading of the disease and HIV, Han Tieru, WHO representative in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore added.
"In settings such as in Singapore and Malaysia where TB and HIV share common risk factors, TB-HIV co-infection is of increasing concern," he said. "We cannot control one without controlling the other. So, we must rapidly scale up TB-HIV collaborative activities through formally established mechanisms and plans."
Health representatives from eight countries, as well as TB are present for the conference, which ends Wednesday.