Australia is throwing itself behind the worldwide fight against tuberculosis, with 30 politicians from all sides of parliament coming together to show their commitment to greater support for tuberculosis.
On Tuesday 21 March at 7.30 am key players in Australia’s fight against TB will gather at Parliament House in advance of World TB Day to help build awareness about the impacts of TB in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Tuberculosis is the world’s deadliest infectious disease, killing about 1.8 million people a year,” said Maree Nutt, CEO of RESULTS Australia, one of the hosts the event.
“Thankfully global action against TB is having an impact, with an estimated 43 million lives saved between 2000 and 2014 as a result of effective diagnosis and treatment of the disease”, added Ms Nutt.
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. The island of Daru, in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and not far north of Cape York, has the highest rate of multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB infections in the world.
“In 2015, Australia increased its assistance to TB prevention and care in PNG bringing the total to $60 million since 2010 and earmarked for the most seriously-affected parts of the country, the Western Province and National Capital District. However, this funding concludes in 2016-17 and further support is required to maintain improved TB identification, testing and treatment,” adds Ms Nutt.
Papua New Guinean TB survivor and health care worker Valda Kereu will be a guest speaker at the event. Ms Keuru was diagnosed with TB while working in Daru, and later her own infant son was also diagnosed. She is passionate about the fight against TB, the rights of people with TB and getting better treatments for TB sufferers.
Her message to the Australian Government is clear.
“Don’t forget about TB – it affects many people, including many women and children in Papua New Guinea and across the Asia Pacific. It is the world’s number one infectious disease killer and we need to act to prevent unnecessary deaths,” Ms Kereu said.
“At present the treatment regimen for TB is complicated and time consuming, which stops many people from receiving or completing treatment and in PNG drug-resistant TB is on the rise.”
Valda Kereu will be in Canberra from 21-22 March and will be available for interviews.
The incidence of multi-drug resistant TB cases globally has reached alarming levels. While there were 480 000 new cases detected and reported in 2015, the number of ‘missed’ cases of MDR-TB is estimated to be much higher. .
People with AIDS and HIV are especially vulnerable to contracting TB, which means treating both the diseases is very important. In 2015, an estimated 1.2 million (11.5%) of the 10.4 million people who developed TB worldwide were HIV-positive.