WE Online, Jakarta - Indonesian TB survivor and advocate, Lusiana Aprilawati, addressed members of the Australian Parliament yesterday, Tuesday (15/3/2016), urging the Australian Government to maintain its funding for TB eradication.
Aprilawati, the Asia Pacific focal point of the Global Coalition of TB activists was the guest of Results Australia, a grassroots movement of people that advise and make requests of policy makers to improve access to health, education, and economic opportunities.
Australia has thrown its support behind the worldwide fight against tuberculosis, by establishing the Australian TB Caucus, with over eighty parliamentarians committing to advocate for more support and expertise to eradicate TB in the Indo-Pacific region.
"Tuberculosis now rivals HIV/AIDS as the world's deadliest infectious disease, killing about 1.5 million people each year, 60 per cent of them in our region. Most Australians think that TB has been eradicated. They think it is something we fixed, but right now in our backyard the disease is having a major impact in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea," said Maree Nutt CEO of Results Australia, co-host of the launch at Parliament House, Canberra.
Co-chair of the Australian TB Caucus, Warren Entsch MP, said before he became involved in the fight against TB he naïvely thought the disease had been beaten.
"But in recent years I have learnt and seen first-hand the devastating impacts of tuberculosis in countries like Papua New Guinea, and the inadequate way the disease is being addressed," said Mr Entsch who also co-chairs the Asia Pacific TB Caucus, which was signed in August 2015.
Progress in addressing tuberculosis is possible, with some 43 million lives saved in the last ten years through better diagnosis and treatment of TB.
Guest speaker, TB survivor and patient advocate Lusiana Aprilawati, was first diagnosed with TB while studying for medicine in Jakarta, and since then several close family members have contracted the disease.
"Indonesia has one of the highest rates of TB in the world, with one million new cases occurring every year, even though it is a preventable and curable disease. TB kills too many of our kids, and TB in our kids indicates that there is disease in their families," she said.
Aprilawati told the gathering that progress in fighting TB in Indonesia has been made possible through the support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
"The Global Fund has helped millions of people access free treatment, advanced diagnostics and lab facilities, and through strengthened the overall health systems, including community care. The Global Fund has been a game changer, in terms of improving the human rights of disease sufferers through supporting people who are marginalised and stigmatized as a result of TB. But the game changing is not yet done - there is more work to be done if we are to end TB and AIDS in the next 15 years. The work must continue and be fast-tracked," she said.
Aprilawati thanked all Australians for the help they have provided to Indonesia through the Global Fund. Other agencies supporting the launch include Australasian TB Forum, Aeras, Burnet Institute, Centre for Research Excellence in TB, Médecins Sans Frontières and Policy Cures.
The signatories to the Australian TB Caucus join a worldwide group of some 1000 parliamentarians who are standing up in the fight against this sometimes forgotten disease.