Australian lawmakers unite against COVID-19 and tuberculosis
COVID-19 has severely impacted tuberculosis treatment across the world. According to an assessment conducted by the Stop TB Partnership, it could cause an additional 6.3 million TB cases and 1.4 million deaths by 2025. On Thursday, July 16 2020 the Australia TB Caucus hosted a webinar for its members to discuss the role and impact of Australian lawmakers.
Opening with key interventions made during the 6th replenishment of the Global Fund Replenishment, Hon. Warren Entsch, MP, Co-chair of the Australian TB Caucus and the Asia Pacific TB Caucus highlighted the Australian government’s $22 million increased investments in 2019, including its $242 million contribution to the Global Fund, an additional AUD 13 million to TB elimination in the Asia Pacific region and AUD 8.3 million committed to support AMR research.
The World Bank estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic could drive over 70 million people into extreme poverty. TB survivors Demi Mason (Australia), Iru Tofinga (Papua New Guinea) and Paran Sarimita (Indonesia) provided testimonials to Caucus members on the enormous challenges of life before and after TB, and the additional complications that COVID-19 presents.
Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of Stop TB Partnership and Dr Suman Majumdar of the Burnet Institute highlighted the need for synergy between lawmakers and community participation to act effectively on detection, treatment and prevention for both COVID-19 and TB - particularly for equal access to resources including a COVID-19 vaccine - and Hon Michael Freelander prompted discussion on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on TB progress.
Although Australia’s contribution to the fight to end TB has been significant, Hon. Sharon Claydon, MP, Co-chair of Australian TB Caucus stressed to participants the need for a deeper exploration of co-investment on priorities of TB and COVID, and reaffirmed the Australia TB Caucus’ continued commitment to advocate for sustainable funding for TB, to ensure current and accurate information about TB reaches parliamentarians and to push for accountability of the Australian government to reach the UN TB High-Level Meeting targets.