Parliament members fight the biggest infectious killer

Maree Nutt CEO of RESULTS Australia, co-host of the launch at Parliament House, Canberra

15 March 2016

Australian TB Caucus to support the worldwide fight against tuberculosis

Australia has thrown its support behind the worldwide fight against tuberculosis, by establishing the Australian TB Caucus, a group of Australian parliamentarians who will advocate for more support and expertise to eradicate TB in the Indo Pacific region.

“Tuberculosis now rivals HIV/AIDS as the world’s deadliest infectious disease, killing about 1.5 million people a year, 60 per cent of them in our region, said Maree Nutt CEO of RESULTS Australia, co-host of the launch at Parliament House, Canberra

“Most Australians think that TB has been eradicated. They think it is something we fixed, but right now in our backyard the disease is having a major impact in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea,” she said.

“We are at the tipping point, where greater investment and resources are needed to end TB in our region once and for all. Establishing a Parliamentary TB Caucus in Australia is critical to build support for this,” Ms Nutt said.
Co-chair of the Australian TB Caucus, Warren Entsch, spoke about the massive problem of TB in Daru, PNG, not far from his electorate in north Queensland.

“Before I became involved in the fight against TB I naïvely thought we had addressed this disease, but in recent years I have learnt and seen first hand the devastating effects of this disease and the inadequacy in the way it is being addressed,” said Mr Entsch who also co-chairs the Asia Pacific TB Caucus.

The signatories to the Australian TB Caucus join a worldwide group of some 1000 parliamentarians who are standing up in the fight against this often forgotten disease.

Co-chair of the Australian TB Caucus, Matt Thislethwaite MP, highlighted the vital role of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in the fight against TB.

“Australia must continue its funding commitment to the Global Fund so we can play our part in ridding the world of this devastating disease.

Progress in addressing tuberculosis is possible, with some 43 million lives saved in the last ten years through better diagnosis and treatment of TB.

Guest speaker, TB survivor and patient advocate Lusiana Aprilawati, was first diagnosed with TB while studying for medicine in Jakarta, and since then several close family members have contracted the disease.

“Indonesia has one of the highest rates of TB in the world, with one million new cases occurring every year, even though it is a preventable and curable disease.” Ms Aprilawati said. “TB kills too many of our kids, and TB in our kids indicates that there is disease in their families.”

“Much of the progress in fighting TB in Indonesia in recent years has been made possible through the support of The Global Fund in helping millions access free treatment, in advancing diagnostics and lab facilities, and through strengthening the overall health systems, including community care.

“The Global Fund has been a game changer, in terms of improving the human rights of disease sufferers through supporting people who are marginalised and stigmatized as a result of TB,” she said. “But the game changing is not yet done – there is more work to be done if we will reach the end of TB and AIDS in the next 15 years. The work must continue and be fast-tracked.”

Ms Aprilawati thanked all Australians for the help they have provided to Indonesia through the Global Fund, saying “The Global Fund is a smart investment of the Australian Government.”

Other agencies supporting the launch include Australasian TB Forum, Aeras, Burnet Institute, Centre for Research Excellence in TB, Médecins Sans Frontières and Policy Cures.

FURTHER INFORMATION

The incidence of multi-drug resistant TB cases globally has reached alarming levels. While some 123,000 cases were detected and reported in 2014, it is estimated the actual number of cases could be close to 500,000.

The World Health Organisation estimates that only 32 percent of cases are identified in Indonesia, so efforts are being made to increase case identification and to create support groups for people with TB in Indonesia.

People with AIDS and HIV are especially vulnerable to contracting TB, which means treating both the diseases is very important. In 2014, an estimated 1.2 million (12%) of the 9.6 million people who developed TB worldwide were HIV-positive.

PROFILES

RESULTS Australia is a movement of passionate, committed everyday people. Together they use their voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty. They advise and make requests of policy makers, guiding them towards decisions that improve access to health, education and economic opportunity to those who need it most. RESULTS is an active member of the Australian Council for International Development and the Campaign for Australian Aid. They work with international RESULTS counterparts and is a partner of ACTION, a global health advocacy partnership.

Maree Nutt has been the CEO of RESULTS Australia since 2007 and has been involved in poverty reduction advocacy with the organisation for over 25 years. Maree has been a key organizer of major Australian advocacy events such as World TB Day. With the leaders of other development agencies Maree sits on the Steering Group for the Campaign for Australian Aid.

Lusiani Aprilawati is the Asia Pacific focal point of the Global Coalition of TB activists. Since joining the TB movement in 1998, Lusiana has been involved in patient education on TB, raising awareness in families, community and migrant workers. Lusiana was involved in the first compulsory licensing for antiretrovirals signed by Indonesia’s President when she was Access to Essential Medicines assistant with Médecins Sans Frontières – MSF Belgium in Indonesia. Lusiana currently volunteers with the Indonesia TB Care Network. (See a video about Lusiana).

The Hon. Warren Entsch has been the Federal Member for Leichhardt since 1996, an electorate that includes the northern Torres Strait Islands of Saibai and Boigu, just four kilometres from Papua New Guinea, which has the highest burden of tuberculosis in the Pacific region. He passionately advocates for a new approach in addressing the tuberculosis threat in the Torres Strait Protected Zone. He has also taken a strong leadership role in both Australian and global efforts to address the tuberculosis crisis. Mr Entsch is Australia’s representative for the Global TB Caucus.

Matt Thistlethwaite is the Federal Member for the Kingsford Smith Electorate in NSW who has served in the Federal Parliament since 2010. He was Senator for New South Wales from 2010 to 2013, and has represented Kingsford Smith in the House of Representatives since 2013. In 2013 Mr Thistlethwaite served as Parliamentary Secretary for the Pacific Island Affairs; for Multicultural Affairs; and Infrastructure and Transport. Since October 2013, he has served as Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Immigration.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Camilla Ryberg, Media and Communications Manager, RESULTS Australia 0435 182 567, camilla.ryberg@results.org.au
Maree Nutt, CEO, RESULTS Australia 0404 808 849
Mandy Gyles, 0408 332 374, mandy@mandygylesandco.com.au