Nick Herbert witnesses efforts to tackle TB in India
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has visited India to witness at first hand the impact of tuberculosis in the sub-continent.
Mr Herbert was part of a parliamentary delegation visiting India, which has recently been declared as having the highest burden of both TB and HIV. The visit was organised and funded by the charity RESULTS.
The MP has taken a strong interest in the issue since his visit to Kenya in 2005, and has become co-chairman of a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB to draw attention to the disease.
The visit was timed to coincide with World TB Day on Saturday 24 March and followed the launch of the All-Party Group's Agenda for Action, which calls on the Government and the wider international community to step up its response to the global TB epidemic.
Although TB is a disease which can generally be treated cheaply and effectively, it still claimed more than 1.6 million lives across the globe last year. In developing countries TB is the most likely cause of death for HIV positive people.
While significant progress has been made in reducing the burden of TB worldwide as a resulted of heightened awareness and renewed political commitment to tackle the disease - as demonstrated by the number of nations, including the UK, which have signed up to the Global Plan to Stop TB, 2006- 2015 - the All-Party Group is keen to emphasise that international efforts must be maintained.
The Group warns that when complacency and inaction have set in previously, TB rates have escalated and new, more deadly strains of the disease have emerged. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, for example, inaction has seen the number of cases of TB continue to rise, with over 8,000 cases reported last year alone.
Mr Herbert visited TB programmes, clinics and research centres involved in TB control in Delhi, Chennai (Madras) and Bangalore, where they had the opportunity to talk to health workers, patients and policymakers about the challenges that must be addressed in order to tackle TB.
The delegation learned that despite considerable progress being made against TB in India, it still kills more adults - more than 1,000 people every day - than any other infectious disease in the country.
In Delhi, Mr Herbert met Indian MPs who launched a similar group in the Indian Parliament on the issue of TB. The MPs from both countries plan to exchange knowledge and co-ordinate action in the fight against the disease.
Nick Herbert commented: "TB rarely receive as much attention as HIV-AIDS, to which it is linked, but it is terrible that well over a million people lost their lives last year across the globe from a disease which can be treated easily and cheaply.
"Aid programmes to make TB drugs available can be very effective, although the key to beating the disease in the long term is to build healthcare systems in the affected countries, which are often desperately weak.
"India is making extraordinary advances but there is a growing gap between the newly affluent and the poor. Over half of the country still lives on less than a dollar a day, which is insufficient to feed them properly.
"We have a lot of local concerns in West Sussex, but I was glad to be reminded that for millions of people in developing countries basic healthcare is still not available. I think that as a relatively wealthy society we have a responsibility to help, and our aid can make a difference, as I saw for myself."
Notes for Editors
1. RESULTS is an international grassroots lobby group "working to create the public and political will to end hunger and the worst aspects of poverty". Its website can be viewed at http://www.results-uk.org/.
2. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB was founded by Andrew George MP, Julie Morgan MP and Nick Herbert MP in the summer of 2006 to "raise the profile of the global tuberculosis epidemic and to help accelerate efforts to meet international TB control targets". For further information, please see http://www.appg-tb.org.uk/.