Sunday, March 24, is World TB Day. I campaign for action to tackle this curable disease which still unnecessarily kills 1.6 million people a year - more than HIV AIDS and malaria combined.
I co-chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB and this week we will be launching a report which will warn that the fight against tuberculosis in England, too, must be stepped up if the disease is to be beaten. We have one of the highest rates of TB in Europe, with more than 5,500 cases in 2017.
To mark World TB Day our group held a reception in the Speaker’s House at the House of Commons where we heard from a TB doctor who has worked in Africa and India. Her accounts of the suffering of patients with drug-resistant TB were absolutely harrowing.
As I said in the Commons last week, drug-resistant TB is a growing problem. Unchecked it could lead to 75 million deaths by 2050, with catastrophic cost to the global economy.
I am a member of a Lancet Commission on TB and this week we will report on the steps needed to build a TB-free world. These include investing more in research and development, because we need better drugs to treat TB and a vaccine to prevent it.
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No epidemic in human history has been beaten without a vaccine, and there isn’t one for TB. The BCG vaccination which many of us had as children is not effective for adults.
Next week I will be leading a Westminster Hall debate on the issue, and will call for the Government to renew its support for the Global Fund which pools the world’s resources to fight AIDS, malaria and TB. The fund is a great example of how the UK’s international aid can save lives.
Of course there are many other important challenges confronting our country. I will continue to work hard on local and national issues on behalf of my constituents. But I do not apologise for raising the issue of TB, because it really matters.
Tuberculosis is the world’s deadliest infectious disease. It exacts a terrible and unnecessary toll of human suffering and loss of life. It imposes an economic burden on the world’s poorest countries, and with drug resistance it represents a serious global public health threat. It’s time to end TB.
You can find further information, including the highlights of my diary each week, on my website: www.nickherbert.com.
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