Tackling TB in Armenia
Armenia and WHO work towards achieving tuberculosis elimination goal
Field experts and leading specialists highlighted regional experience and cooperation at a conference in Armenia to mark World Tuberculosis Day on 24 March 2023. The event, Tuberculosis – a Modern Health Challenge, presented updates on the current epidemiological situation in Armenia, diagnosis and detection of TB in the country, pharmacovigilance, and scientific research. It also served as a platform to launch the new Tuberculosis Action Plan for the WHO European Region 2023–2030.
Armenia, supported by WHO, is developing national guidelines on systematic screening for TB and TB preventive treatment to improve prevention and timely detection of new TB and multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) cases, in line with WHO’s End TB Strategy.
“We can definitely say that we will overcome TB, and we will do it in close cooperation with you and all engaged stakeholders,” said Stela Bivol, who leads the Joint Infectious Diseases Unit at WHO/Europe, in her welcome speech at the opening of the conference.
Yet timely and effective access to TB diagnosis and effective treatment for people with MDR-TB is still a challenge in Armenia.
The Tuberculosis Action Plan for the WHO European Region 2023–2030, presented at the conference by Askar Yedilbayev, Regional Adviser for Tuberculosis at WHO/Europe, focuses on the following key areas:
- setting up ambitious policies and resources for TB
- improving accountability and intersectoral cooperation
- prioritizing key and vulnerable groups and equal access to services
- meaningfully engaging civil society and affected communities
- ensuring universal access to TB prevention, rapid diagnosis and fully oral treatment for TB and MDR-TB
- expanding service delivery at the primary health-care level
- accelerating the introduction of research and new technologies, including digital health solutions.
Oleg Storozhenko, WHO Special Representative in Armenia, explained, “The COVID-19 era has posed many challenges to health systems, negatively impacting the progress previously made in the fight against TB. Nevertheless, effective treatments to prevent TB and to treat active TB have been scaled up and are in use worldwide. It is critical that people who need treatment continue taking it to increase their chances of being cured and to reduce transmission and the development of drug resistance.”
Gayane Ghukasyan, Coordinator of the Communicable Diseases Programme at the WHO Country Office in Armenia, added, “We have solutions which seemed impossible just a few years ago. For the first time, we can offer treatment regimens lasting only 6 months, effective for both sensitive and drug-resistant TB. Drug-resistant TB can be diagnosed very quickly and treatment can start immediately. Digital solutions, as well as innovative approaches, make the services provided more human-centred and change the quality of TB diagnostic, treatment and care services.”
TB elimination goal
In May 2019, WHO conducted a comprehensive review of Armenia’s national TB programme. Based on its key findings and recommendations, WHO then supported Armenia to develop a new national strategic plan for TB for 2021–2025.
“According to the assessment results of the joint technical mission of the Green Light Committee for the WHO European Region and the Global Drug Facility in December 2022, the TB epidemic situation in Armenia continues to improve, with decreasing incidence numbers in the country,” said Artak Manukyan, Director of the National Center of Pulmonology. “Armenia has all the prerequisites needed to achieve the elimination goals for TB by 2030, with the support of WHO.”
Naira Khachatryan, Head of the TB Programme Office at the National Center of Pulmonology, emphasized, “Successful partnership with all engaged parties, civil society, associations and vulnerable groups, and ultimately patients engaged as partners in their treatment via patient-centred services, will enable us to achieve all set indicators and, thus, to successfully achieve the elimination of TB in Armenia.”