The WHO Global TB Report 2018 shows that TB remains the world’s top infectious killer and that 36 percent of people with TB are missed by health systems. Data from the report illustrates how global progress on TB remains stalled, highlighting the importance of raising TB as an important political priority, which is one of the goals of the upcoming UN High Level Meeting on TB on Sept 26 in New York.
As a percentage of new TB cases per 100,000 population per year (TB Incidence), PNG, Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines are some of the highest TB Incidence countries amongst the 30 highest TB burden countries in the world. The global TB Incidence is 133 for every 100,000 people but PNG, for example, has 432 and Philippines a staggering 545 for every 100,000.
“These countries carry an extremely high burden of TB and overall the Asia Pacific carries around 62% of the global high burden countries. These countries are some of our closest neighbours which means we can not afford to turn a blind eye,” says Shiva Shrestha, Global Health Campaigns Manager RESULTS Australia.
TB is a preventable, curable airborne disease that has been around for thousands of years but a lack of awareness and political will means that millions still get sick unnecessarily.
“When we signed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) we made a global commitment to end TB but another year has passed since the last Global TB Report and little to no progress has been made. That’s why the United Nations High-Level meeting on TB, which will take place in New York on September 26 is so important.”
The UN High-Level Meeting on TB (UN HLM on TB) is the biggest and best opportunity to raise the political priority of TB and is considered the most significant political meeting ever held regarding the disease. The outcome of the meeting is a Political Declaration on TB endorsed by heads of state that will form the basis for the future TB response.
“At this stage we have no firm commitment from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to attend.
Effective political leadership on TB means that every prime minister and president should know how many people in their country are impacted, and they must hold their health, finance, and social services ministers to ambitious targets for treating and curing all of them,” says Shrestha.
“The TB epidemic cannot be resolved through health system interventions alone. The response must be driven at the head-of-state level to ensure a coordinated, high-level country response and coordinated global framework to ensure accountability.”
Currently, more than one in three people with TB are “missing” because they are either undiagnosed or unreported.
“That’s 3.6 million cases of TB where the quality of care — if there was care at all — is simply unknown. In the case of drug-resistant TB (DR-TB), a majority of cases (71 percent) are undiagnosed or unreported,” explains Shrestha.
The UNHLM on TB Political Declaration calls for global financing for TB programs to be increased to $13 billion per year by 2022 and TB R&D financing to be increased to $2 billion per year to achieve the goals set in the Political Declaration. These gaps must be filled by a combination of domestic and donor resources.
“Without a combination of increased political will and investment we have no hope of turning back of stemming the tide of TB.“