The change of Prime Minister to Scott Morrison last week doesn’t change the fact that 10.4 million people around the world fall ill every year with tuberculosis (TB). It also doesn’t change the fact that in four weeks time, Australia still has the chance to show it’s leadership at a historic United Nations High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on TB set to commit to a plan to rid the world of this ancient disease by 2035.
“TB communities from across the globe are all urging their heads of government to attend the UN HLM on TB in New York this September which 47 leaders are already committed to attending. As Scott Morrison takes the helm this is an excellent opportunity for him to lead our delegation and show that Australia cares about tuberculosis and its threat to health security not just in the Asia-Pacific region but across the globe,” says Maree Nutt CEO RESULTS Australia.
“Our region carries 60% of the world’s TB burden. Papua New Guinea and Indonesia have extremely high infection rates, however, Australia is certainly not immune. The reality is that roughly 1300 people in Australia fall ill due to TB every year. There are about 1 million Australians living with latent TB, with up to 100,000 of them likely to develop TB in their lifetime so we can not continue to ignore this global health emergency.”
We must ramp up our actions to address TB which is an airborne disease that killed an estimated 1.7 million people in 2016. We still rely on the age-old sputum microscopy to detect the disease while the more severe drug-resistant TB takes a long time to diagnose.
TB can be cured by taking an arduous 6-8 month course of antibiotics but if these first-line TB drugs fail or if a patient does not complete the treatment, TB becomes drug resistant. Last year there were 600,000 drug-resistant TB cases in the world, and the number is increasing.
“The reality is that in 2018 TB is detectable, treatable and curable but we need quicker diagnostic tools to detect all cases of TB, we need better drugs with a shorter duration of treatment and we need an effective TB vaccine. Gathering committed leaders from across the globe to the UN HLM on TB is the best chance we have of changing the status quo is ensuring global commitments to end TB in our lifetimes,” adds Nutt.
Agreement to hold a dedicated UN HLM on a specialized topic is taken in exceptional circumstances through a UN resolution and vote. The UN HLM on TB will be the fifth time the UN has called for a high-level meeting devoted to a health issue, the first being the 2001 Special Session on HIV/AIDS, followed by UN HLMs on Non-Communicable Diseases, Ebola and Antimicrobial Resistance.
“Australia has always taken a proactive role on important issues both in our region and across the globe and the UN HLM is an opportunity for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to demonstrate his leadership on this critical health emergency.”