The Australian Government needs to commit $450 million to fighting tuberculosis, say Results International (Australia) and Pacific Friends of Global Health, as the global death toll rises for the first time in a decade while COVID-battered regional health systems struggle to respond to the growing threat.
“Before COVID-19, TB was the deadliest infectious disease in the world, and will likely reclaim that title again,” said Negaya Chorley, chief executive of aid group Results International (Australia). “In 2020, TB killed 1.5 million people up from 1.4 million in 2019, the first time we’ve seen deaths rise in a decade.”
TB is caused by a bacteria that spreads through the lungs, causing a bloody cough, and if untreated, a painful death. After almost two decades of progress, the global response to TB has reversed as COVID-19 puts hospitals, health clinics and medical workers under extreme strain.
A complicating factor for TB is that treatment requires close management. Misused medication, wrong dosages, and unfinished courses can all lead to the bacteria becoming resistant.
“TB is preventable and curable but without proper treatment, TB will become multi-drug resistant,” said Ms Chorley. “Leaving TB undetected, untreated, and unmanaged in our region risks a health challenge becoming an unstoppable epidemic.”