On Tuesday we held our March Conference Call entitled: “World TB Day: still neglected, still killing”. March the 24th 2011 marks the 29th anniversary of World TB Day. TB is a preventable and curable disease, yet it kills 1.7 million people every year. While progress has been made towards fighting TB, many challenges remain, the greatest of which is the lack of prioritisation of this global health threat from governments in the developing and developed world. If we do not address the issue now, 20 million people will die from TB in the next decade.
Our guest speaker on the call was Joel Spicer, senior strategist at the Stop TB partnership, a coalition of donors, governments and NGOs working to end TB, which is hosted in the World Health Organisation (WHO). If you were unable to join us on the call, you can now listen to the recording here.
The areas Joel spoke about included:
- The interactions between TB and poverty, TB and HIV and TB and maternal health
- The absolute necessity for DfiD to create an integrated strategy for TB and HIV
- The major challenges faced in light of the achievements of the Global Plan to Stop TB targets
Joel quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu who said “TB is the child of poverty and also its parent and provider”. TB is particularly dangerous because it spreads through the air, and can spread particularly quickly in areas where living conditions are poorly ventilated and crowded. A malnourished body is also more likely to catch and develop TB. TB also has important knock-on effect on poverty, as those who work hard to escape poverty are dragged back in by the economic and social burdens of TB.
Furthermore, Joel underlined the fundamental need to address the combination of TB, HIV and maternal health holistically. In particular, he emphasised the need for DfiD to create an integrated strategy for TB and HIV. He underlined how cost-inefficient it is not to invest in TB when investing in HIV because while billions are invested in treating HIV/AIDS, TB is the leading killer of people living with HIV. Without proper treatment approximately 90% of people living with HIV will die within months of developing active TB. To protect and maximise our investments in HIV we should be integrating the fight against TB, ensuring that patients of each disease are tested for the other and infection control is practiced at TB and HIV clinics.
Finally, our speaker spoke about the challenges facing achievement of the ambitious goals and targets outlined in the updated Global Plan to Stop TB. The first challenge Joel underlined is donor engagement. The risk of seeing countries’ contributions decrease due to the financial crisis must be avoided at all cost. Second, Joel argued the need to create a ‘Framework for Results’ that includes strong results-based objectives on the UK’s contribution to achieving the targets of the new Global Plan to Stop TB. At present the UK government does not have a policy on TB, and the issue also seems to be being neglected in those policies that have been released, like the maternal health ‘framework for results’ which did not include any specific actions or indicators relating to TB despite the fact that TB is the third leading cause of death among women of reproductive age and causes serious pregnancy complications.
If you would like to take action to fight TB, please read the documents on our monthly action page here and take the action to contact your MPs. There are two ways of taking this month’s action – though you can of course do both. You can write to your MP to explain the issue and ask them to take action, and/or you can join the RESULTS team in Parliament on World TB Day to meet with your MP. Please contact us in the office if you require further assistance with either way of taking action.