Tag Archives: TB

Tuesday Night’s Conference Call, A Precursor to World TB Day

On the evening of Tuesday the 2nd of March, RESULTS held a conference call as a part of the World TB Day campaign.

TB is not only a global issue affecting some of the poorest countries in the world but also a local problem. There were nearly 9,000 reported cases of TB in the UK this year. This month’s action is about linking the local with the global. We invite you to join RESULTS on Monday the 24th of March for World TB Day.

During RESULTS Tuesday conference call Amy McConville, TB patient and advocate in the UK shared her personal experience with TB. Amy was diagnosed with pulmonary TB in 2005. Amy first had TB in her left, then right lung. It took 12 months from the point of experiencing symptoms for Amy to get diagnosed with TB. Because Amy’s diagnosis took so long, her TB was already at an advanced stage upon beginning treatment. Ultimately, Amy had to have surgery to remove her entire left lung. With delayed diagnosis come complications. In order to improve health outcomes of TB sufferers, TB must be diagnosed as soon as possible. The typical profile of a TB sufferer is someone with a compromised immune system that comes from an area with high rates of TB. It is important to recognize that while some groups of people are more vulnerable to TB, anyone can get TB. It is imperative that clinicians and the health community strengthen their awareness of TB and possible symptoms.

Amy describes TB as a lonely disease because of the low levels of awareness amongst the public and amongst healthcare professionals. When Amy was diagnosed with TB she experienced feelings of isolation due to the lack of support networks. She stresses that social support networks are essential to relieve the social hardships of the disease.

TB has a serious long term impact on both physical and psychological well-being. TB drugs have horrible side effects that may make the patient feel worse than the disease itself. Without social support, many TB suffers stop treatment and go on to develop a more serious, drug resistant form of TB. More effective interventions must be put in place. The voices of TB must be heard to improve treatment. TB is currently being treated in a clinical model of health but it needs to be recognized and treated as a social disease as well.

Amy’s campaigning work with the Tuberculosis Action Group (TBAG) has raised awareness of the disease and has united those impacted by TB. TBAG members have the patient perspective which is essential to improve the way in which TB is treated. TBAG has done work to raise TB awareness through media highlighting that the UK does not provide the services that TB patients need.

You can learn more about Amy’s story and the stories of other TB patients in the UK in RESULTS TB Voices Report.

You are invited to join RESULTS on Monday the 24th of March for World TB Day. 9:30am we will meet at the RESULTS office in Vauxhall for breakfast. At 11am RESULTS will head to parliament for a briefing with speakers from Malawi and India with first-hand experience with TB. The “Find and Treat” x-ray unit (a mobile x-ray that screens vulnerable populations for TB and gets them off to treatment) will be parked in parliamentary grounds. Many other World TB Day events will take place at parliament going on until the evening.

Tuesday the 25th of March marks the The Johannesburg meeting On March 25th, ministers of Health, Labour and Finance, along with CEOs from leading mining companies will meet in Johannesburg to continue negotiations on the next steps for the regional response to TB in Mining, including the Code of Conduct. TB in mining has been an issue for over 100 years and the Johannesburg meeting marks an opportunity for mining companies to take accountability for their worker’s health, even after they have returned to their villages.

RESULTS looks forward to you joining us this Saturday the 8th of March at 7pm. RESULTS advocates from around the world and our partner organisations will join together to hear from Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education, in advance of the Global Partnership’s June 2014 pledging conference.

Education and Tuberculosis in the News

The Guardian writes that the United Nations reports that one in four people in developing countries are unable to read. In addition, 250 million children do not have basic literacy skills even if they attended primary school for four years. Lack of education is a leading cause of extreme poverty. The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) has been providing aid and improving education in impoverished countries. Getting better teachers in schools and all children into primary school is a key component of reaching the education for all Millennium Development Goal. Education is not only a stepping stone to ending poverty, but will lead to increased child survival as well.

An investment in education, more specifically women’s education is an investment in the future. In 2012, research by UNICEF reported that investing in women’s education reduces poverty and increases social and economic development.  Making women’s education and health a priority will help reach the MDG targets. While these targets will not be reached on time, the realization and awareness that women’s health and education is a key component to many MDGs that will drive change. In the 23rd January UN conference, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed that reaching development goals require ‘girl power’.  “The United Nations gives girls a ‘gold rating.’ When you invest in their future, you are guaranteed results that multiply across society – on health, education, peace and the welfare of future generations,”

Neglect in tuberculosis research and diagnosis is having damaging effects globally. There have been recent tuberculosis out breaks in a Colorado school in the US as well as more severe outbreaks in  Russia. A dangerous drug resistant tuberculosis strand has been discovered across Russia, Southeast Asia, South America and sub-Saharan Africa. The  World Health Organization reports that the management of TB drugs needs to be closely monitored for treatment to be successful. It has also been noted that additional research on TB and drug resistant TB is necessary.

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It couldn’t happen to me? Living with MDR-TB in Romania

During his time in Romania, Tom Maguire from the campaigns team, met with a young woman called Cristina to discuss her experience of living with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). This guest blog from Cristina shows the huge impact MDR-TB can have on a young woman’s life and the level of courage and determination that is needed to complete two years of treatment.

You hear about it on TV but you think ‘Neah! It couldn’t happen to me’, and then it does. And you’re confused, thinking what you’ve done wrong, why did it pick you, until finally you realize you’ve done nothing wrong, you weren’t chosen, you’re just a percentage of those who catch TB, one of the poor, the malnourished or in my case simply unlucky.

Creit: Tom Maguire/RESULTS UK

Credit: Tom Maguire/RESULTS UK

It all started in September 2012. I’d got  a cold – at least that’s what I thought – and I decided to go to the doctor (till today I don’t know why because it didn’t seem to be something severe). He consulted me, gave me some pills and told me to come for another check in few days. I took the pills but immediately after I felt a pain in the upper left side of my back. I went back and told him and we decided to take an X-Ray of my lungs. There it was! A dark spot on my upper left lung that could be either cancer or tuberculosis. I went to a specialist and found out that it was actually TB.  I was told I should be happy, TB is curable unlike lung cancer. Imagine my surprise, I thought TB only existed in the past. I didn’t know anybody with TB, no one in my family had it. After surprise came fright. I was terrified that I might have passed it on to my family. My best friend had just found out she was pregnant. I was devastated. This was a feeling that would come back from time to time to haunt me: did I pass it on to someone?  Will they have to go through the same hell I’ve been through?

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RESULTS welcomes Danielle Lasley to the team

Hello everyone, my name is Danielle Lasley and I have just begun volunteering at RESULTS. I will be assisting with communications work and gra326695_10151421849292154_711762597_ossroots planning for the national conference in May. I will be organizing conference materials and researching potential venues and speakers to speak about the importance of combating the TB epidemic. I will also work on news blogs and utilize tools such as Twitter to help spread awareness of RESULTS campaigns.

I am a student the University of Connecticut in the US. I will be earning a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Psychology in May 2015. At the University of Connecticut I have worked as a Psychology research assistant and also work as a waitress. I am part of UConn’s club water polo team and enjoy being a part of student life and the University’s community.

Currently I am studying abroad in London as a part of the Global Citizenship in Practice Program. This program gives students the opportunity to get involved in the community. I am excited to begin my volunteer work at RESULTS because it not only gives me the opportunity to work with the London and UK community but the global community as well.  I have always been interested in human rights and am excited to be a part of a team that makes a difference.

Nelson Mandela – A Life of Advocacy

Last week, RESULTS staff  were in South Africa running advocacy trainings for partners from across Africa. Steve Lewis describes how plans changed when Nelson Mandela died:

‘Mandela set us free’. An emotional morning in Cape Town workshop

Our trainings were progressing smoothly last week in Cape Town – we had ten partners in one room learning about media work and another group learning advocacy methods in our room. But Thursday at around midnight the news leapt around the hotel that Mandela had died. Many of us stayed up late that night watching the rolling news, talking to friends; everyone was in shock.

Friday morning – how  could we  continue the workshop when all that people wanted to do was talk about Mandela?  How he had changed the country, how he had changed their lives… ? We began with a minute of silence, but then carried on with our planned agenda. We were spending two days studying advocacy methods – some techniques that help you for example, build a strong coalition or hold successful meetings with decision-makers.  Some of these ‘tools’ can come across as quite dry – but when we  suggested assessing the tools in the light of Mandela’s life the room came alive.

“We can learn so much from Mandela’s life”, said Ndumiso.  “He said to us that slavery, and then apartheid were not normal, not inevitable.  They could be ended if people worked together. He said that poverty in not inevitable either. It can be ended.”

A son comforts his mother, laying flowers for Mandela.

“In this workshop we’ve talked about how advocacy should have a clear goal, but also achievable milestones”, said Linda, “and that is what Mandela achieved. The end of Apartheid was the goal, building equality for all sections of society. But there were concrete milestones too – the end of the pass laws, desegregation of housing and so on. That allowed us to see we were making progress.”

“In advocacy we talk about the importance of a clear message”, said Peggy. “We use the ‘EPIC’ technique (Engage the audience, state the  Problem, Inform, Call to Action). Mandela had a very clear message of justice that people all over South Africa wanted to follow. The Call to Action was heard around the world. From Anti-Apartheid we learn that a strong clear call is essential if you want to win support. So for talking about TB, we need a clear message – like ‘Zero Deaths, Zero New Infections’.

Alan Ragi, KANCO director (Kenya) with participants from South Africa & the UK

Alan Ragi, KANCO director (Kenya) with participants from South Africa & the UK

“Mandela was an expert at both ‘Insider and Outsider advocacy’”, said Alan.  “He and the ANC used both.  On the Insider track he negotiated, he was polite and softly-spoken, he held backroom meetings with presidents and staff. But behind him were the mass protests and the threat of armed struggle, the rent strikes and the international boycott.  Mandela had a soft voice but his people had a big stick.”

“Another lesson is that he formed a strong coalition”, suggested Manaan.  “The ANC allied with many groups – the unions, the churches, white people, all races. Sometimes in life we have to ally with groups we would not normally be friends with. For example Nelson allied with the previous president FW de Clerk – that’s why they shared the Nobel Peace Prize”.

We began to talk about leadership… “He was humble but determined. While in prison he learnt Afrikaans so that he could understand  the ruling class and negotiate with them.  He was patient and he lived his values…”  That session could have gone on for twice as long.

“In the end”, said one black speaker, “Mandela taught us about equality. Here I am now, in a workshop with Linda, a white woman, talking equally, sitting together. Mandela set black people free.”

Crowds came onto the streets to march & dance in celebration of Mandelas life

“That’s true”, said Wena, “but there’s more to it. He set all of us free. When I was a child I was told I could not be friends with the little girl next because she was black. I couldn’t understand it. Now I am friends with anyone and everyone. I am proud to work in the Health Service, with black and white and Asian colleagues. All of us together are trying to improve the health of this nation. Because as Mandela said to us, Apartheid was not natural, and could be ended. Poverty is not natural either, and we can end it. Now it is the job of our generation to carry on his work.”

All photos credit: Steve Lewis/RESULTS UK

How the mining industry costs lives

Felix Jakens, Grassroots Campaigns Manager at RESULTS, was recently asked to write an article on TB in the gold mining industry in southern Africa for the Medcin magazine . Here it is in its full glory:

“If TB and HIV is a snake wrapped around the continent, then the head is here in South Africa, and the fangs are in the mining industry” Dr Aaron Motsoledi, Minister of Health, South Africa

When I was asked to write a piece for the Medsin magazine titled ‘how the mining industry costs lives’ I was slightly taken aback: I have 800 words to try and document a topic as vast as that? That can’t be done. Of all of the world’s industries, I would be as bold as to say none has exacted such a heavy loss of human life as mining. From Greek slaves being worked to death in Rome’s salt mines, to early coalmine shaft-failures in Wigan and Newport, to collapses in modern China as illegal mines strip rare minerals from the earth to provide parts for mobile phones, many lives have been lost as we seek to extract all manner of objects from the earth.

X Ray in DoorSo in an issue with so much death, drama and catastrophe who spares a thought for the men who survive ‘life at the mine’ only to take home with them a death sentence? A cave-in at illegal mine in Zimbabwe causing 20 deaths will make headlines around the world; but gold mining activities being directly linked to 760,000 new cases of deadly tuberculosis and many thousands more of degenerative silicosis, each and every year?

Forget it.

That  isn’t a story; and yet this tragedy is unfolding on a scale that we can barely begin to imagine.

South Africa already has the second highest incidence of TB in the world with an infection rate of around 1,000 per 100,000 population; while among gold miners the rate rises to approximately 7,000 per 100,000 (the UK is around 14). That’s around one in three cases across the sub region and around 9% of the total burden; what’s more, data on this issue is sketchy at best, with many hundreds of thousands of men having worked in the mines who no longer identity as ‘former mine workers’ but who has suffered from extremely high exposure to silica dust and TB bacterium. This group has been described as ‘ticking time bombs’.

But why are miners in the region so uniquely vulnerable?

Epidemiologists refer to a ‘perfect storm of disease’ in which physical, biological and social factors combine to create the highest rates of TB in the world. Exposure to silica dust, HIV infection, difficult working conditions and poverty come together to create the highest TB infection rates in the world.

Around 90% of all the miners working in the South African gold mines migrate from rural areas or from neighbouring countries. High levels of poverty and unemployment mean a job in the mines is often the only work available. These men stay in cramped, single-sex hostel-style accommodation which leads to high risk of HIV infection; miners in Southern Africa have HIV infection rates of around 30%, which is very high. Being infected with HIV and the resulting weakening of the immune system makes a person 20-30 times more likely to develop TB.

In the mines themselves, the cramped, hot working conditions are highly conducive to the spread of airborne TB bacteria. Miners are provided with protective masks but their size, and the heat of the mines, means they are often taken off, leaving miners exposed to silica dust and TB bacteria. Measures to prevent the spread of TB, such as air circulation and ventilation are extremely difficult to implement in the mines, which can be many kilometres deep with tunnels as narrow as two metres wide.

A miner working without protective apparatus exposes himself to silica dust. Silica dust is found in gold mines and is easily inhaled. Once in the body the lungs cannot remove it and it can lead to a disease called silicosis, where lung function is impaired and has a variety of harmful effects. One of these is that silicosis damages the lungs and renders an individual around three times more likely to contract TB.

Given the immense damage being done to miners and their communities, one would assume that this is a problem which has surface in the recent past; again you couldn’t be more wrong. In 1903 the Milner Commission Report into TB among miners stated “the extent to which TB among miners prevails at the present time is so great that preventative measures are a an urgent necessity”

So why has so little been done to stem this tide of misery? Again, in an issue so strewn with paradoxes, the interventions needed to tackle the issues of TB, HIV and silicosis are well know and cost effective. Prevention exposure to silica dust through introduction of dust dissemination technology, reducing single sex hostel style housing, ensuring on site diagnosis and treatment for workers and many others are well documented and proven to be effective.

To frustrate the issue further, sector wide application of these interventions would yield an overall positive financial gain to mining companies. A World Bank economic analysis of the issue estimated that an upfront spend of around $750 million would provide a benefit of $800 million by reducing loss of working hours, amount of training needing to be provided, healthcare costs etc.

So despite this issue being clearly understood for over 100 years, with proven cost effective interventions widely known, hundreds of thousands of miners still contract TB every year. But why?

Again, as we keep returning to, the answer is not simple, there are several interconnected factors. Firstly the mines themselves have a serious case to answer. From minor lacks in compliance to outright flouting of health and safety legislation, the mines are a major player in this issue. The Government of South Africa and surrounding countries can also do much more. In SA itself the compensation system for ex-mineworkers is archaic beyond repair and desperately needs to be overhauled.

Currently the fine levied against mines that breach health and safety legislation is too weak to be effective against multi-billion pound mining companies; the importance of mining to the South African economy clearly has an influence over the decisions of government. Unions also must have a case to answer. One accusation is that once these men leave the mines to return, sick, to their communities they are ‘out of sight out of mind’; no longer paying union dues and in some of the most remote, rural areas of the region. Donor governments can and should do more for these communities; using their leverage to increase pressure on all actors to do more to tackle these epidemics.

Looking back, it isn’t hard to understand why so few people are aware of this issue. When a mine collapses its clear who is at fault; the issue flashes into our minds and we can make clear judgements about blame and recourse. With an issue like TB the people who die are out of sight, in rural communities, away from the glare of the press. They die slowly, contracting silicotic TB years after they leave the mine. These men are poor, often abjectly so, with little capacity for recourse, and they have been dying in their thousands since the inception of mining.

But that can’t be where we end, and RESULTS, along with Medsin and our partners around the world are working tirelessly to raise the awareness and create the political will to have a lasting and positive effect on the lives of miners, their families and their communities.

To find out more join our stream or check www.results.org.uk

 

 

TB advocates gather in Paris for conference and call for more ambitious TB targets

Last week at the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease civil society made their voices heard loud and clearly when they stormed the stage to demand faster progress towards eliminating TB. The group of advocates, who declared a need for a target of zero TB deaths, brought some much needed urgency to the room as they called for greater ambition in attempts to eliminate TB.

Along with advocates from across the world, participants included members of tbec2the TB Europe Coalition, an informal advocacy alliance of civil society organisations across Europe and Central Asia working to increase the political will to control the disease throughout the World Health Organisation European Region. Those on stage included representatives from Moldova, Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, France, Belgium, Italy and the UK .

Against a backdrop of placards and impassioned faces, Colleen Daniels from Treatment Action Group challenges those in the room to aim higher in the fight against TB in order to get to zero TB deaths, zero new TB infections and zero suffering and stigma as a result of TB. 

The voices of former TB patients and civil society actors from across the WHO European Region continued to be heard later on in the week as the TB Europe Coalition hosted a lively and engaging session at ‘advocacy corner’.

The session titled ‘European Voices in the TB Fight’ gave advocates from Eastern Europe and Central Asia the opportunity to speak about their experiences with TB and on how TB is dealt with in the region.

“When I found out I had Multi Drug-Resistant TB (MDR-TB) I was scared and confused, I didn’t understand what was happening to me”, explained Stefan Radut from Romania. During his long treatment, Stefan had to take an injection and 18 different pills every day. This treatment caused him anxiety and hallucinations, he was depressed and his hearing capacity was compromised. “I experienced exclusion and isolation”, said Stefan. “I couldn’t get out and my friends were scared of visiting me”.

In his misfortune, Stefan was lucky because he could access good treatment in a country, Romania, where only very few MDR-TB patients have access to proper drugs, psychological and social support. According to latest data, Romania has a MDR-TB treatment success rate of 16% compared to for instance 91% in Pakistan.

TBEC1Oxana Rucsineanu from Moldova has also been affected by the disease. After being treated for MDR-TB, she founded the SMIT patient organisation, which works to empower TB patients by raising awareness about their rights, including social and psychological support, and how to practically access these services. “We need to raise the voices of TB patients into discussions about decisions that affect their lives” Oxana said.

“When I firstly heard about it in 1999, MDR-TB was only a degeneration of TB due to improper or uncompleted treatment. Now MDR-TB is all over the place”, stressed Elchin Mukhtarli of the NGO “Support to Health” in Azerbaijan. MDR-TB has become a bacterial epidemic in itself and has just been declared by WHO as a public health emergency.

The session illustrated the challenges faced by civil society organisations in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Russia and to hear from the audience on how there are similar problems outside of Europe, such as Pakistan and Kenya.

Sadly the voices we heard at the session are only those of the lucky ones. Too many voices of former TB patients will never be heard.

August Action Annouced

Demand Industry Action in the fight against TB in southern Africa’s gold mines

We have been campaigning on the issue of TB among Southern Africa’s goldminers for the past 18 months, advocating for a strong regional response supported by international actors like the UK and the World Bank. In that time we have seen some amazing progress, with real political will being committed by the heads of the state in the region, the UK announcing new funding for a project to tackle the issue and the World Bank undertaking economic analysis of the issue.

TGTD promo imageIn March this year committed parties signed the Swaziland Statement, outlining renewed financial and political will to tackle the issue. The statement was signed by regional and international governments, big multilateral agencies like the Global Fund and the World Bank, and NGOs. Conspicuous by their absence were the mining companies themselves. Despite being the group with possibly the greatest capacity to influence the course of the TB and HIV epidemics, they have so far been slow to respond. This month we’ll be calling on the largest gold miner in the region to step up, take action and lead the regional response from the private sector.

Materials included this month:

GROUP MEETINGS FOR TELEPHONE CONFERENCE: 6th August 2013 8pm

Guest speaker: TBC

This month there are groups meeting to join the conference call in: Central London, South London, Poole, the Stort Valley, Birmingham, Oxford, Macclesfield, Central Sheffield, South Sheffield, Leicester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Norwich, Bath, Bristol, Leamington Spa, Cardiff, and Linlithgow. If you would like information on the location of your local group, please get in touch with us in the office at: felix.jakens@results.org.uk

If yo would like to join the conference call there are 3 numbers you can call – 0844 762 0762, 0203 398 1398 or 0800 22 90 900. You must then enter the participant code, which is 18723. If you would like advice about which number to call please contact us in the office.

We look forward to you joining us

€1.4 billion pledged for TB, HIV/AIDS and Malaria research and development

RESULTS’ Health Advocacy Assistant, Bruce Warwick, looks at the European and  Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership and warmly welcomes recent financial commitments. 

Last week on 10th July the European Commission (EC) approved a proposal for the continued support of the ‘European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership’ as it moves into its second phase (EDCPT II 2014-2024). This approval now means that Member States and the European Commission have each committed €683 equalling a combined value of €1.4 billion. It was hoped that donors would commit up to €1 billion and so the combined amount of €1.4 billion really is a fantastic win in the effort to eliminate tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria which still account for 3.5 million deaths every year.

What is the EDCTP?

DSC00272Established in 2003, the EDCTP is an initiative that aims to establish a research and development programme for the development of new or improved clinical interventions to combat tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria. Clinical interventions include the development of new or improved drugs, vaccines, microbiocides and diagnostics.

It is a partnership between 14 European Union countries, plus Switzerland and Norway, and 47 sub-Saharan African countries. By working in partnership, the EDCTP has been able to pool resources, funding and activities enabling it to achieve a greater impact against the three poverty related diseases (PRNDs) than if countries were acting alone.

Significantly, it also serves to improve the research environment (whether through capacity building of staff, infrastructure etc.) within participating countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This is noteworthy given that the region remains the worst affected by these diseases – TB is a major cause of death among people living with HIV and in Africa alone there were 1.3 million people newly infected in 2010 accounting for 50% of the 2.6 million global new cases. It is noted that: During the first phase of EDCTP (2003-2011) more than 200 African scientists and medical doctors got professional training, research careers were built, many students graduated with Masters and PhD degrees.

EDCTP II

With the first phase of the EDCTP coming to an end this year, EDCTP II will launch in early 2014. It is hoped that the partnership, which has proven so successful in the past decade, will be able to replicate these successes in the decade to come. The announcement of €1.4 billion in funding certainly inspires confidence – this amount is significantly larger than the €400 million contributed by the EC and member states between 2003-2015.

Poverty-Related and Neglected Diseases and Research and 

IMGP0326

The EU has frequently been called upon to do more for poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs) research and development and we’re happy to see, from this announcement, that the importance of R&D is recognised. For TB in particular the ongoing support or R&D financing is vital. Shockingly, the current TB drug regimen was developed over 40 years ago and there remain no treatment options that are suitable for children. Recent studies have shown that new and improved TB drugs, vaccines and diagnostics could reduce the global incidence of TB by 71% by 2050, a reduction of more than 6.5 million cases.

This funding undoubtedly represents a significant step in the right direction for R&D into PRNDs.  I would urge the UK Government and donors overseas to continue to recognise the crucial nature of investing into R&D and innovation when looking to tackle PRNDs effectively. Along with the EDCTP there are initiatives such as TB REACH or UNITAID that have had a considerable impact.

I warmly welcome the announcement regarding the financing of EDCTP II and hope that with this investment into R&D and new tools we can help empower and make a vast difference to the lives of the millions of people who are currently affected by HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and other poverty-related and neglected diseases.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of RESULTS.

First ever debate on rising rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis held in Parliament

Global Fund image for websiteOn Tuesday 4th June, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Tuberculosis member Jim Fitzpatrick MP (Labour, Popular and Limehouse) secured a debate on the rising rates of drug-resistant (DR) TB in developing countries. This was the first time that a debate had been held specifically on the infectious disease that, despite being curable, continues to kill 1.4 million people each year.

There are estimated to be almost nine million cases of TB each year, just over six hundred thousand of which are the more extreme drug-resistant strain of the disease.

The numbers will come as a shock to many, given the perception that TB was confined to the history books long ago. Unfortunately that is not the case. Even here in the UK rates of the disease have been rising since the 1980’s with around nine thousand new cases each year.

TB has been around for a long time, it is the greatest infectious killer in human history eclipsing all other pandemics, and is now evolving into an even tougher advisory. Drug-resistant (DR-TB) forms of the disease can take four times as long to treat as ‘normal’ TB cases and cost up to 450 times more in developing countries. So while DR-TB cases account for less than 10% of the global burden of the disease, the cost to treat it is, quite frankly astounding.

If this was not bad enough, very few people who contract DR-TB have access to diagnosis or treatment, meaning that the disease continues to spread.  It can be passed from person to person as it is often airborne.

In a globalised world it is clear that this problem requires a global response. Mr Fitzpatrick sought to raise exactly this point and highlighted a number of key recommendations from the recent APPG TB report Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis: Old Disease – New Threat which highlighted steps the UK could take to meet this new threat. Continue reading