On World TB Day 2022, Burnet Institute reaffirms its commitment to the ambitious global target to eliminate TB as a public health threat by 2030 through providing on-the-ground assistance and support, training and building capacity, conducting research to inform policy, and working with global and national partners to achieve change.
The theme of World TB Day 2022 – Invest to End TB. Save Lives – conveys the urgent need to invest resources to ramp up the fight against TB and achieve the commitments to end TB made by global leaders.
In Papua New Guinea (PNG), where the burden of TB and multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is high, Burnet Deputy Country Director (Programs) Dr Shahid Islam understands the importance of commitment across all levels to achieving TB elimination.
“We have high-level United Nations commitment, we have global commitment, but political commitment is really important in a country like PNG,” Dr Shahid said.
Image: Dr Shahid training TB peer counsellors in Daru, PNG
“We have that commitment in PNG, but it needs to be reflected at all levels from policy-making to implementation to support universal health coverage, social protection and to make resources available.
“The other thing to remember is that TB is a disease of poverty, and we can’t address TB only with treatment and detection – we need to have an improvement in social determinants.”
Dr Shahid points to Burnet’s PRIME-TB project as an example of valuable work to support TB elimination not only in PNG, but regionally.
On #WorldTBDay2022 @BurnetInstitute Deputy Country Director in Papua New Guinea Dr Shahid Islam talks about the importance of political commitment to defeat tuberculosis #EndTB @StopTB @RESULTS_AU @ausglobalhealth @PacificFriends @GlobalFund pic.twitter.com/Y4XVC2dQXG
– Burnet Institute (@BurnetInstitute) March 24, 2022
The project involves the development of four knowledge hubs in PNG and Indonesia that can pilot and scale up successful innovations in TB case detection and models of care and conduct enhanced surveillance to support the micro-elimination of TB in these areas.
“The focus for PRIME-TB is developing the national capacity both in clinical and laboratory areas and improving the health system through the development of models of care, providing training, and developing the training materials and tools,” Dr Shahid said.
At community level, Burnet TB Peer Counsellor Ainba Koivaku is part of a tight-knit team that provides education and psychological support to patients and their families, facilitating patient referrals and collaborating with clinical staff to meet patient needs.
Mr Koivaku said support for patients has improved enormously since he was diagnosed with drug-sensitive TB in 2007.
“In those days, I was taking 11 medicines every day for six months and there was no support at all, no counselling, no education,” Mr Koivaku said. “I was told, ‘just take the medicines’, and the only people who supported me were my parents.
“But when World Vision came in, when Burnet came in, a very big change happened.
“Today patients have privileges, they have food vouchers, lunch packs, they have the best counselling service, they have the best education that they need today.”
Mr Koivaku highlights that despite the improvements to TB care and support, there are still barriers to completing treatment.
“Daru is an Island, and when patients come for treatment from the mainland areas, they have a lot of issues that they face while on treatment, including food and accommodation.”
Guidance from the affected communities, combined with strong collaboration between NGO and government partners and political commitment is needed to break these barriers for individuals and work towards TB elimination broadly in PNG.
Click here to find out more about the broad range of Burnet’s TB projects and research and how you can contribute to our Campaign to STOP TB.
In 2020, an estimated 10 million people fell ill with TB worldwide and a total of 1.5 million people died from TB, making it the second leading infectious killer globally after COVID-19.
March 24 marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, opening the way towards diagnosing and curing the disease.