Teresa is today calling for greater action to combat Tuberculosis (TB) throughout the world.
Every year, over 1 million people die from a disease that many people consider to have already been eradicated.
TB is airborne, infectious, drug-resistant, and found in every country in the world. Yet, in the UK, more people associate it with badgers than they do with humans.
On this World TB Day, 24th March 2014, parliamentarians from around the world have come together to call for renewed action against the disease.
The statement has been signed by over 130 representatives from across the G7 countries and the European Parliament.
Teresa, one of the first UK MPs to sign the statement, said:
“TB has killed more people than any other infectious disease in history, and it still kills 1.3 million people every single year.
The difficulty is that people just don’t appreciate what a problem TB really is here in the UK. The rate in Erith and Thamesmead is four times the national average. These figures cannot be ignored. We need more awareness raising and more outreach programmes to diagnose and treat people as early as possible.
Whilst I’m very pleased that the UK National Strategy for TB has been launched for consultation today, a National Strategy is just the first step in a long process. We need to make sure it successfully reduces cases, rather than being just another health initiative that doesn’t achieve anything.
What is clear is that the only way we’re going to beat the disease is if we take co-ordinated, global action. This is why I signed this statement, and will continue to support initiatives aiming to tackle this disease. That the statement has received international support is proof of the need to develop an international strategy, and I hope that this marks the first stage in its creation.”
Members of the UK House of Commons and House of Lords make up over half of all the politicians who have signed the statement, reflecting the fact that TB remains a significant problem here in the UK. Parts of the country have rates to match those found in some of the worst affected countries in the world, and London has the highest rates of any capital city in Western Europe.
People who are ill with TB can transmit the disease to around 15 other people. Once patients start treatment, however, they become significantly less infectious within just a couple of weeks. Early diagnosis and treatment, therefore, is critical to stopping the spread of the disease.
Aaron Oxley, Executive Director of RESULTS UK, an NGO which focuses on TB, agrees:
“There is a lot we need to tackle the disease, but it all starts with political commitment. The National Strategy is an important step to controlling TB in the UK, but more needs to be done internationally and I hope this statement will prove to be a significant step forwards.”