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TB still causes 1.4 million deaths each year

By Sarah Mac Donald - 24 March, 2014

TB REACH1_2By Sr Gillian Price

Ringo Star, Nelson Mandela, Tom Jones and Desmond Tutu all have something in common: they survived tuberculosis.

Whereas Henry VII, St Therese of Lisieux and the poet, John Keats, died of the disease.

TB has been present in humans for at least 70,000 years and has killed an estimated one billion people since its emergence: a greater number than any other infectious disease.

Today, 24 March, is World TB day, marking the date in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch first discovered the bacilli that causes TB.

The world has known what causes TB for over 100 years and has had a cure for nearly 90 years, yet every year nine million people contract TB and one third of them never receive a diagnosis.

This year’s theme for World TB Day is ‘The missing three million’ referring to the nearly three million people who contract TB each year and receive a diagnosis.

Without a diagnosis they cannot receive treatment and remain infectious, spreading the disease to their families and communities.

Many of these people are members of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities: the homeless, migrants, drug users and the impoverished.

Nearly 75% of those affected by TB are adult men and women in their most productive years of life, depriving children of parents and families of wage-earners in a repeating cycle of poverty and ill health.

Nowhere is the problem graver than in the South African gold mines.

Due to a combination of hot cramped working conditions, high rates of HIV infection and poverty, miners in the region have the highest TB rates ever recorded anywhere in the world.

RESULTS UK is calling on the UK Government to fund TB diagnostic services for mining communities and to apply regional influence to drive genuine engagement eg in developing a regional action plan to fight TB.

It is a scandal that TB still causes 1.4 million deaths each year.

TB still persists because the overwhelming majority of new cases and deaths from the disease occur among the poorest people in the world’s poorest countries.

The global political priority for tackling the disease is low. Politicians are not deliberately or wilfully ignoring the issue, but the TB epidemic is not one affecting them, their country or their constituents.

But all that is changing rapidly. TB is an opportunist disease that has no awareness of borders, TB anywhere is TB everywhere.

TB in the UK is on the rise with some London boroughs having higher rates than some sub-Saharan African countries.

Every year in the UK over 9,000 people still contract the disease. Recently thousands of drug resistant TB cases have been appearing all over Europe.

Efforts over the last two decades—during which some 20 million people have been cured of TB—have given us hope that we have not had since the discovery of the first TB drugs three quarters of a century ago.

But at the current rate of progress, TB will remain a serious threat to global public health until the end of the next century.

This is unacceptable. That is why, on World TB Day, we are calling on governments across the world to intensify their responses to TB and to act together.

Our economies are global; our approach to this disease must also be global.

If we invest now in scaling up existing interventions, in increasing the development of new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines, if we invest in innovative projects and programmes to diagnose and treat everyone who has TB, we will see an end to TB not in a hundred years, or two hundred, but in twenty years.

So we have a choice, we can seize the opportunity before us, we can choose to invest and innovate and push forward towards the elimination of TB or we can step back, and risk the resurgence of this ancient disease and the continued spread of near-untreatable drug-resistant strains.

Today, as a global community, let us be the ones to commit to turning the tide against this devastating disease.

We can give a voice to the poor suffering from TB. Together, we can be the generation that ends TB.

In his address to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Pope Francis said, “Among our tasks as witnesses to the love of Christ is that of giving a voice to the cry of the poor.” 

This is the charism of the Congregation to which I belong. The Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross of Liege was founded for the poorest people in the world.

TB is a disease which disproportionally affects the poorest people in the world’s poorest countries which is why our Sisters are working with the DOTS TB programme (Directly Observed Treatment, Short-Course) in India, Pakistan and Cameroon as well as with the Jesuits in the TB sanatoria at Jesu Ashram in Matigara and Siliguri.

In England, the Daughters of the Cross ran TB sanatoria at Holy Cross Hospital, Haslemere and at St Anthony’s Hospital, Cheam.

Now in the UK we continue our work to eradicate TB through advocacy work with organisations such as RESULTS UK, including supporting the ‘Find and Treat’ Mobile X-ray service who work in partnership with the St John of God brothers to provide residential TB treatment and care for homeless and destitute patients.

See more at: http://www.results.org.uk

If you are affected by TB, there is more information available from the TB action group (TBAG) See: http://www.tbalert.org/index.php/what-we-do/uk/tb-action-group

Daughters of the Cross of Liege: http://www.daughtersofthecross.org.uk/

Courtesy: Independent Catholic News http://www.indcatholicnews.com/

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