THE treatment and prevention of tuberculosis and malaria, which affects more than 35 million people in the Asia Pacific region annually, took a backwards step this week when the Federal Government decided to scrap $10 million from the foreign aid program that supports cutting-edge medical research into combating these two killer diseases.

Anti-poverty organisation, RESULTS International (Australia), is calling on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to reverse this life-threatening decision.

RESULTS has described the funding cut by the Government as short-sighted and inconsistent with her recent statement that aid should be about “improving the health and living standards of the most vulnerable people in our region.”

The toll of TB and malaria in our region remains enormous. Not only are nearly 700,000 lives lost every year but the disease causes a serious decrease in economic productivity. In the case of TB, it affects mostly men of working age.

Despite the fact that both TB and malaria have been around for thousands of years, there is no effective vaccine for either disease.Current drugs are also becoming increasingly obsolete due to the diseases being able to build up a strong resistance.

“The lack of new drugs and vaccines is not due to a lack of scientific expertise, but it is due to a lack of resources to adequately fund the research and clinical trials,” Ms Maree Nutt, CEO of RESULTS, said.

“This $10 million cut is almost pocket change for the Government, but could be life-changing for our region and the world.

“This program is just one of the many casualties of the Government’s disappointing decision to cut $625 million from the aid program this year,” Ms Nutt concluded.