Advocates push for Australia to take greater role against TB

Burnet Institute

24 March, 2014

(L-R): Professor Warwick Britton (TB-CRE), Matt Thistlethwaite MP, Jo Chandler (MDR-TB patient), Senator Brett Mason, Professor Brendan Crabb (Burnet), Professor Steve Graham (Royal Children's Hospital), Mary Moran (Policy Cures), Maree Nutt (RESULTS)

Australia’s leading tuberculosis experts and health advocates met with Federal parliamentarians on World TB Day to push for an increased and coordinated response to the tuberculosis crisis in the Asia-Pacific.

Burnet Institute, Aeras, TB Alliance, TB Centre for Research Excellence (TB-CRE), RESULTS International (Australia) and Policy Cures outlined the daunting health challenge of tuberculosis at a special parliamentary briefing hosted by Senator the Hon. Brett Mason, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, at Parliament House in Canberra.

Freelance journalist, Jo Chandler, who is recovering from multidrug-rsistant TB (MDR-TB) also spoke at the briefing about “how lucky I am to have access to world class care and treatment in Australia” whilst many mllions of other patients do not.

In 2012, 1.3 million people died from tuberculosis worldwide, a preventable disease, with 40 per cent of those deaths occurring in developing countries of the Asia-Pacific.

Burnet Institute Director and CEO, Professor Crabb said Australia has a crucial role to play in the response to TB.

“It is a major issue on our doorstep with 58 per cent of global cases in the Asia Pacific region; this is a threat to both our neighbours and ourselves,” he said.

“A scale up of existing healthcare methods alone is unlikely to be sufficient, TB needs innovative solutions. We urgently need research at all levels, including developing new vaccines, diagnostic tests and drugs.”

RESULTS International (Australia) CEO, Ms Maree Nutt said the high-level round table discussion which followed the parliamentary briefing reinforced the need for a coordinated approach to the burdening problem of TB.

“We will be asking the Government to facilitate a coordinated response to combat the disease that is both treatable and curable, but is becoming more entrenched in our region due to drug resistance,” she said.

“Failure to address DR-TB will result in major long-term human and economic costs, which may pose a serious threat to the development and security of our region.”

Globally, the prevalence of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) has risen from an estimated 440,000 cases in 2008 to 680,000 in 2012.

“Health advocates are calling upon the Government to mobilise regional political commitment and resources to fight the disease and convene a high-level roundtable meeting to develop a coordinated strategic response to rid the region of TB,” Ms Nutt said.

A community TB treatment supporter supervises a TB patient in Western Province PNG taking her daily medication. Photo Australian Aid.

Find out more about Burnet’s TB work.

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Burnet Institute

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