In 2020, 1.5 million people died due to tuberculosis. For First Nations Australians, the rate of TB infection is six times higher than the rest of the population. Photograph: Mahesh Kumar A/AP
When the pandemic unfolded, vital resources were diverted away from TB, with infections going undetected, untreated and unmanaged.
Few non-Indigenous Australians have had the misfortune of encountering tuberculosis (TB), an airborne bacteria which spreads through the lungs and leads to a bloody cough.
For First Nations Australians, however, the rates of TB infection is six times higher than the rest of the population – with the Northern Territory’s Top End, Queensland’s Cape York and Torres Strait particularly impacted.
This preventable and curable disease, if left untreated, causes an agonising death as it eats the lungs from the inside out.
Prior to Covid-19, TB was the world’s leading infectious disease killer.
In 2020, 1.5 million people died due to this invisible global epidemic – marking the first time in a decade there was a rise in deaths.
While most parts of Australia reached its elimination strategy a decade ago, modelling suggests elimination in the Top End isn’t likely until 2066.
A disease of poverty and economic distress, vulnerability, stigma and discrimination, according to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis targets not just Australia’s but the world’s most vulnerable populations.