Fight against tuberculosis takes stage in Sydney

ALEX PARRY | SBS | 31 AUGUST 2015

The World Health Organisation has called on Australia to do more in the global fight against airborne drug-resistant tuberculosis.

A conference of health officials, politicians and disease survivors has held its biennial meeting in Australia for the first time.

The International Union Against TB & Lung Disease began a three-day conference in Sydney on Monday, attracting hundreds of Australian and international delegates.

Attendees will discuss improvements that can be made in the fight against tuberculosis, particularly in the Asia Pacific, where more than half of the world’s nine million new cases each year are recorded.

Resistant to at least two of the four available medications, the multi-drug resistant tuberculosis kills three people every minute.

The Federal Government committed $30 million for TB treatment and diagnostic research earlier this year, as part of its work with a global caucus of political representatives.

But the WHO says although Australia has committed millions of dollars, it needs to do more to help its neighbours falling behind in service delivery and education.

Mario Raviglione, Director of the Global Tuberculosis Program at the World Health Organisation says Australia has two important roles.

“One is on research: we badly need new tools. New diagnostics, new treatment and new vaccines.

“And probably the most important one, taking leadership in the Asia Pacific region and supporting the national programs of those countries that are really at a very high rate of TB”.

The Global TB Caucus was formed for governments to collaborate in developing treatments and public health programs.

In 2014, the Caucus signed the “Barcelona Declaration”, committing to use all means available to stop the spread of TB and improve treatments.