Yesterday, March 24th, marked the 19th annual World TB Day and we saw an amazing day of advocacy, action, media, and high level announcements of new funding and policy from key organisations working on the global TB response.
RESULTS kicked off our day with a briefing in our offices with a group of advocates from around the UK. As people arrived at our office they were chatting about the article they had read in The Metro that morning about World TB Day, and the piece in the Independent Catholic News that our loyal campaigner Gillian Price had managed to get placed; the media was landing! Our Executive Director, Aaron Oxley, spoke about the theme of the day, ‘Reach the 3 million’. He described how each year an estimated three million people contract active, deadly TB but are ‘missed’ by health systems; meaning they either receiving no diagnosis, the wrong diagnosis, quack diagnosis, or are put on the wrong drugs, leading potentially to their TB becoming drug resistant. This year, World TB Day was aiming to re-focus international efforts on finding and treating the three million.
Our group of 20 then set off for Parliament for a meeting and briefing with key professionals working on the response to TB. The briefing was organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group for TB, TB Alert, and RESULTS. On the way we stopped to take a few snaps with our World TB Day boards:
We headed into Parliament for the kick off briefing which was addressed by three guest speakers. Mercy Annapoorni of Blossom Trust, India, who spoke about the work they are doing working on developing creative approaches to educating communities in Southern India about TB and how to detect and report it. We also heard from Anthony Chilembwe of the Sue Ryder Foundation in Malawi who spoke passionately and in detail about the work they are undertaking on developing innovative approaches they are deploying to getting TB diagnosis and treatment done in rural and remote areas of the country, including using cycle couriers to deliver sputum samples from villages to clinics for analysis.
Finally we heard from Dr Emily Wise, a UK infectious diseases registrar who had recently returned from a year’s sabbatical in Uzbekistan working with MSF on an MDR-TB project. She spoke passionately about the brutal reality of this killer disease, telling the audience about a young nurse who had died in her arms after succumbing to MDR-TB, reminding the audience of the crucial importance of finding and treating the many millions of people who contract TB each year.
Following the briefing, and feeling fired up, we headed out into Palace Yard in Westminster, where we were met by the Find & Treat mobile X-Ray clinic (used to find and treat vulnerable people with TB in London) along with staff and ‘peer
educators’ from the service and featured in an excellent supplement for World TB Day in the Financial Times. The Peer Educators work with Find & Treat to help locate and engage members of the vulnerable populations they work with. many of the Peer Educators are former users of the service, including Patrik, who contracted TB while living rough in London – after he was engaged by F&T he had to completely give up drinking in order to make his treatment work. He managed it, and now he volunteers with the service and is off the streets. Now he works with other homeless people telling them “get on the van!” – he doesn’t take no for an answer. The work that the team does is truly inspirational, dedicating their lives to find and help some of societies most vulnerable people; they really are helping ‘Find the missing 3 million’. The work of Find and Treat was also featured in an excellent supplment for World TB Day by the Financial Times that praised the work the team are doing to diagnose and treat vulnerable populations.
Thanks to the hard work of staff at RESULTS and Find & Treat, we saw a whole load of MPs and Peers drop by to hear more about the service, TB, and Finding the 3 million. Including:
Meanwhile in Johannesburg South Africa, ministers of state, the World Bank and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria announced an exciting financial commitment to tackle TB in the gold mining industry of southern Africa. In this co-authored article from South African health minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Mark Dybul, head of the Global Fund, the pair called for a strong public-private partnership between mining companies and the state and announced that the World Bank and Global Fund are ready to commit $100 million each to tackle TB in the mines, providing mining companies come to the table. If created, this public-private partnership has the potential to save thousands of lives in the region and would help get the epidemic properly under control. The mining companies must now step up.
After a short trip to the LSHTM World TB Day symposium to hear a number of engaging talks about finding the missing 3 million cases of TB, we headed back to Parliament for the launch of a consultation on a National Strategy to tackle TB here in the UK. The event, hosted by the APPG on Global Tuberculosis and Public Health England, marks the beginning of a 3 month consultation period with key stakeholders before a final strategy is agreed upon. You can read more about the strategy in this press release from Public Health England.
Thanks to everyone who came down for an exciting and jam-packed day of campaigning and advocacy. We can safely say that this one of the best World TB Day’s ever!