The Australian TB Caucus, a multiparty group of 29 parliamentarians, met today to discuss the need for Australia to take a leadership role on the issue of TB in the lead up to the first ever UN High Level Meeting on TB, which will be held alongside the UN General Assembly in New York this September.

TB is the world’s leading cause of death for all infectious diseases, surpassing HIV & AIDS even though it is preventable, curable disease that has been around for thousands of years. In 2016, TB killed 1.7 million people and 10.4 million people became ill. Drug resistant TB is a public health crisis including in several countries in our region such as Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia.

Caucus Co-Chair Warren Entsch MP spoke of Australia’s existing commitment to TB but also of the importance of 2018 as a time for Australia to help really tackle TB in our region and globally.

“Australia has been investing in reducing TB burden globally and in the Asia Pacific region, through several mechanisms including the Global Fund to fight AIDS TB and Malaria, the Indo-Pacific Health Security Initiative of the Australian Government and the bilateral support for TB control to countries like Papua New Guinea,” says Entsch.

“Now with the UN High Level Meeting planned for September it is time for Australia to join other countries from around the planet to finally come up with solutions to end TB by 2035.”

A United Nations High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) is convened by the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the main decision-making body of the UN representing all 193 UN Member States, and governments. Agreement to hold a dedicated UN HLM on a specialised topic is taken in exceptional circumstances through a UN resolution and vote. The UN HLM on TB will be the fifth time the UN has called for a high-level meeting devoted to a health issue.

Senator Lisa Singh, who was elected new Co-Chair of the Australian TB Caucus at the meeting said the importance for the HLM for ending TB cannot be overstated.

“We have an unfinished business with TB and the UN High-Level Meeting is the biggest and best opportunity to raise TB as a political priority. It is the most significant political meeting ever held on TB. The meeting will result in a Political Declaration on TB endorsed by Heads of State that will form the basis for the future TB response,” said Senator Singh.

The Rt Hon Nick Herbert CBE MP, co-chair of the Global TB Caucus and co-chair of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on TB, addressed the meeting via satellite and said “TB was declared a global emergency in 1993 but since then 50 million people have died from the disease. This cannot continue. The UN HLM on TB represents a unique opportunity for the world’s Head of State and Government to come together and make concrete commitments to tackle TB. In particular we need bold targets on diagnosis and treatment, on funding TB programmes and research and development, and clear, independent, accountability to monitor how countries are delivering on their commitments to ensure that we see real progress as a result of this HLM and not just more well-intentioned words.”