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Penny Wong announces $17m funding injection to treat TB scourge in the Asia-Pacific

Results CEO Negaya Chorley drives the call for greater investments in TB in our region in this piece published in on 25 March.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong will direct $17m to fight the tuberculosis scourge that continues to cripple Southeast Asia and The Pacific, though one international aid agency says the money won’t be enough to wipe out the curable illness.

Ms Wong announced the commitment on Sunday ahead of World Tuberculosis Day, with the funds set to support the Global Alliance for Tuberculosis to develop and trial a new generation of “drug-resistant” tuberculosis treatments, including for children.

Ms Wong said drug-resistant TB was a “major threat” in the region and the new treatments would roll out in Indonesia, the Philippines Vietnam and Papua New Guinea.

TB claims a life in Timor-Leste every 11 hours, a life in Papua New Guinea every two hours, a life in the Philippines every 13 minutes and a life in Indonesia every four minutes, according to international aid organisation Results International.

“Improving the health and wellbeing of communities in Southeast Asia and the Pacific is central to supporting a peaceful, stable and prosperous region,” Ms Wong said.

“On World Tuberculosis Day, Australia reaffirms our commitment to end tuberculosis.”

International Development Minister Pat Conroy said the money would help low income countries access the medicines at “affordable prices”.

“This disease causes great suffering and poverty in communities across our region, and we are committed to ending it,” he said.

The prevalence of TB, an infection of the lungs, has declined across the world in recent decades, though there was a reversal of the trend during the Covid-19 years.

Indonesia recorded 141,000 TB deaths in 2022, a 4 per cent increase from 2021.

In 2022, the disease killed an estimated 1.3 million people globally, down from the 1.4 million killed in both 2020 and 2021.

The preventable disease was also detected in some remote Indigenous communities in South Australia in May 2022, with SA Health now leading a public health response with communities in the APY Lands in the state’s northwest to facilitate testing and treatment.

Results International Australia chief executive Negaya Chorley said she welcomed the new funding but more would be required to eliminate TB by 2030.

“While TB is rare in Australia, it remains a threat,” she said.

“Over the past year, clusters of outbreaks have emerged in Australia, while TB remains at crisis levels for many of our neighbours in Asia and the Pacific.

“There is still a way to go to eliminate TB globally, but it is entirely possible as recent progress has shown.

“The progress made in Asia and the Pacific in just one year proves that dedicated resources and funding, including from Australia, is paying off, but we need to build on this momentum if we want to reach global targets and turn the renewed hope of ending TB by 2030 into a reality.”


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