IN the lead up to World TB Day on March 24, RESULTS International (Australia) is highlighting the urgent need for a strategic regional response to the threat of tuberculosis and for more investment in new vaccines and treatments to bring an end to this sometimes forgotten disease.
‘Reach, treat, cure everyone’ is the theme for World TB Day in 2015. Each year nine million people worldwide get sick and are debilitated as a result of TB and its antiquated treatments, one in three cannot access treatment and one in six will die. Some 56 per cent of new TB cases occur in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific.
The disease has killed some 30 million people since the World Health Organisation declared TB a global health emergency 22 years ago. In 2013,1.5 million people died as a result of TB. There is a growing threat of multi-drug resistant TB, with some 480,000 cases occurring in 2013. It is already impacting people on Australia’s doorstep in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar.
RESULTS International has brought to Australia an impressive young woman, Eloisa ‘Louie’ Zepeda from the Philippines, whose life was devastated by multi-drug resistant tuberculosis meningitis at 25 when she was an up and coming architect in Manila.
Louie experienced months of pain, paralysis, exhaustion, nausea and psychosis during her treatment. While she was eventually cured of the disease, the treatment left Louie blind (many others are rendered deaf from the treatment). Her plans for the future shattered.
Bit by bit, over the course of many years, dealing with daily discrimination and overcoming ongoing health issues – including the likelihood of infertility – Louie now counts herself lucky.
“I’m working, married, a mother, and I’m improving the lives of others through my TB and disability advocacy work,” she said. “The advocacy for eradication of tuberculosis is my primary mission.”
Louie is one of the 37 million people who were saved between 2000 and 2013 through the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis. “This shows there is the opportunity to not just reverse the spread of the disease, but to end this epidemic and suffering,” said RESULTS International (Australia) CEO Maree Nutt.
“Achieving success will require integrated patient-centred TB care and prevention, bold policies and supportive systems, and intensified research and innovation.”
Source: RESULTS International (Australia)
Image Source: Louie (middle) with advocates from RESULTS Sydney Northern Beaches group in Manly (Credit: RESULTS).