10 March 2016
Cross-party commitment to fighting our region’s biggest infectious killer
Australia is throwing itself behind the worldwide fight against tuberculosis, with several politicians from all sides of politics expected to sign up to the Australian TB Caucus next week.
On Tuesday 15 March at 7.45am key players in the fight against TB will gather at Parliament House in advance of World TB Day to launch the Australian TB Caucus and build awareness about the impacts of 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,” said Maree Nutt, CEO of RESULTS Australia, one of the hosts the launch of the Australian TB Caucus
To reduce the burden of TB, detection and treatment gaps need to be addressed, as do social issues such as discrimination, poverty and lack of education, and new tools need to be developed.
“Building a better understanding of TB, and continuing Australia’s support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are vital in the fight against TB.” Ms Nutt said.
“We are at the tipping point, where greater investment and resources are needed to end TB in our region once and for all,” said Ms Nutt. “Establishing a Parliamentary TB Caucus in Australia is critical to build support for this.”
Thankfully action against the TB is having an impact, with an estimated 43 million lives saved between 2000 and 2014 an as a result of effective diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
Despite these advances, ten million people fall sick to the disease each year, nearly 60 per cent in the South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions. In PNG, 3800 people died from the disease in 2014 alone.
Some 10 per cent of global TB sufferers are now in Indonesia, with one million new cases of TB occurring there every year, double the previous estimate from the WHO. 12 per cent of cases are multi-drug resistant.
Indonesian TB survivor and patient advocate Lusiani Aprilawati will be a guest speaker at the launch of the Australian TB Caucus. She is passionate about fighting TB, the rights of people with TB and getting better treatments for TB sufferers.
Ms Apriliawati was first diagnosed with TB while studying for medicine in Jakarta, and since then several close family members have contracted the disease.
Her message to the Australian Government is clear. “Don’t forget about TB – it affects many people, including women and children and people living with HIV. It is the world’s number one infectious disease killer and we need to act to prevent unnecessary deaths,” Ms Apriliawati said.
The Australian TB Caucus is being co-chaired by the Hon Warren Entsch MP and Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP, to bring together members of parliament with a keen interest in TB and how Australia can best secure support and expertise to eradicate the disease.
The Australian TB Caucus launch is being held at 7.45am on Tuesday 19 March 2016 in Reps Committee 1R3, Parliament House Canberra.
Other agencies supporting the launch include Australasian TB Forum, Aereas, Burnet Institute, Centre for Research Excellence in TB, Médecins Sans Frontières and Policy Cures.
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 WHO 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.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria leads the fight against these diseases globally. The Fund has helped bring eight new anti-TB drugs and 15 vaccines to advanced stages of development, but eradication is still a long way off.
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 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 a 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.
When: Tuesday 15 March 2016
Time: 7.45am for an 8.00am start, concludes 9am
Where: Reps Committee Room 1R3, Parliament House, Canberra (note change of room venue)
Lusiana Aprilawati arrives in Sydney on Saturday 12 March. She will meet with one of RESULTS Australia’s grassroots supporters group at 1pm on Sunday 13 March at Milson’s Point Park before travelling to Canberra on Monday 14 March for launch of the Australian TB Caucus.