Could you imagine a disease that causes more suffering and death than HIV, Ebola, and malaria combined?
It’s hard to believe, but tuberculosis (TB), a preventable and curable disease, is the culprit. The bacterial disease is currently the world’s leading infectious disease — resulting in 10 million infections and the death of around 1.6 million people each year.
These harrowing facts were the catalyst for a new motion in Australia’s parliament.
Warren Entsch, a federal MP and co-chair of the Australian Parliamentary Tuberculosis Caucus, delivered a passionate speech detailing just how common TB is and the urgent need for nations, including Australia, to step up efforts to curb its deadly spread.
"TB is a disease that most people thought was a thing of the past or isolated to small pockets in some of our more impoverished countries. I, for one, had assumed the disease was no longer an issue, but nothing could be further from the truth,” Entsch stated. “TB is today’s world-leading infectious disease, having surpassed HIV and taking more lives than HIV, malaria, and Ebola combined.”
Entsch specifically called on the Australian government to develop an action plan to monitor the progress being made to reduce the occurrence of TB and to increase investment in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria.
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“Young key populations must be given an opportunity to voice what they need.”https://t.co/hCpg5cxjtIpic.twitter.com/iHnCq2pGDL
Since its inception in 2012, the Global Fund has saved around 27 million lives — cutting deaths from the three deadly diseases by one-third. In 2017, the fund provided medical care for 3.6 million people suffering from TB.
On Oct 10, the Global Fund will hold an international pledging conference in France, where countries will be urged to attend and invest generously so the fund can continue its lifesaving work over the next three years.
At least USD $14 billion is hoped to be raised.
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Australia has been asked to contribute $300 million.
In 2016, at the last replenishment, Australia pledged $220 million — making the nation the 10th largest county donor out of 48 countries.
According to Entsch, an increase of $80 million would help health security in both the Asia-Pacific region and Australia.
"The Global Fund provides more than 65% of international funding for TB and is responsible for nearly 50% of TB funding in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “The $300 million the Australian government is being asked to contribute represents just AUD $3.85 per Australian per year — roughly the price of a cup of coffee, or less. In fact, for every dollar invested in the Global Fund, around $22 is spent in the Indo-Pacific region — a pretty good return on investment, if you ask me.”
He continued: “There is a funding gap of $1.3 billion annually in TB research and development, and it is critical to develop quicker diagnostic tools, better drugs, and a new TB vaccine in order to end the TB epidemic.”
Several MPs seconded the motion, including Sharon Claydon, Pat Conroy, Tim Wilson, and Matt Thistlethwaite.
Claydon, a member for Newcastle, pleaded for “Australia to dig deep” and asked that the new Global Fund contribution “not be pillaged from aid spending elsewhere.” Conroy, a member for Shortland, likewise announced it would be “fundamentally important for Australia to play its part in the fight against TB.”
Wilson, a Liberal MP, spoke to just how heavily impacted Australia’s region is by TB.
He explained that the World Health Organization estimates that, in 2018, around 62% of the world’s new cases of TB occurred in the Indo-Pacific region.
"So, while we're very fortunate not to have a big challenge domestically, the challenge we face on our doorstep is incredibly real and undermines the opportunity of those countries to get ahead,” he announced. “That's why it should be core and front of focus as part of our aid and international assistance effort across the region to make sure that we're providing assistance and putting countries in the best position to get ahead.”
Thistlethwaite, a member for Kingsford Smith, acknowledged all the work Australia has previously done and continues to do to help combat the disease. He contended, however, that Australia does need to “take additional action to monitor this progress… and hopefully, find a cure.”
Should Australia answer Entsch’s call and invest generously in the Global Fund, it will join recent commitments from the UK, Canada, Germany, and the United States.
On Sept 28, at the 2019 Global Citizen Festival, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg also announced that Norway — thanks, in part, to over 51,000 actions by Global Citizens — will increase its investment to $2.02 billion Norwegian kroner (USD $228 million) by 2023.
Executive Director of the Global Fund Peter Sands then joined Solberg on stage to thank Norway for its investment and to call for more nations to step up.
"Global Citizens, your voices have already helped secure pledges from Germany and Canada this year,” he continued. “Together, we must call on more leaders to step up the fight.”