Nick Herbert joins forces with 'golden boy' Figo to launch TB campaign
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert teamed up with Luis Figo, the former captain of the Portuguese football team, at the launch of the Stop TB Partnership’s ‘I am Stopping TB’ campaign on 17 March.
‘I am Stopping TB' is the first ever global campaign to tackle tuberculosis, and aims to raise awareness for a disease which still kills millions each year.
Mr Herbert launched the campaign at Hackney Free and Parochial Secondary School in his capacity as Co-Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Global TB. Along with Figo he was joined by Dr Jorge Sampaio, the former President of Portugal and now the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy to the Stop TB Partnership.
The MP said that it was a privilege to introduce both Dr Sampaio and Luis Figo, "the golden boy of the golden generation, and one of the greatest footballers of modern times".
Following the press conference, 25 school children took part in a penalty shoot out with the former World Footballer of the Year, before he had to fly back to Milan. Mr Herbert joked that he had managed to resist his researcher's "helpful suggestion" that he should go in goal to see if he could save a Figo penalty.
Figo, who became an ambassador for the Stop TB Partnership in January 2008, said: "I'm happy to be here. It is a big pleasure to be in this team." The Inter Milan player added that he had become an ambassador because he wanted to inform the public about the scale of the TB epidemic.
Earlier that day, Mr Herbert chaired a meeting of the APPG on Global TB at the House of Commons at which Dr. Katherine Floyd of the World Health Organisation (WHO) unveiled the latest WHO Global Tuberculosis Control Report.
The MP said that "the sense of optimism" of the previous year's report appeared to have faded, as the 2008 report showed that progress in the diagnosis and control of TB has slowed down: during 2001-5 the average rate of detection for new TB cases grew by 6 per cent per year; in 2005-6 the rate increased by only 3 per cent.
It was also shown that the total number of cases of TB and the numbers of deaths caused by TB rose from their 2005 figures. The number of cases of TB increased from 9.1 to 9.2 million and 1.7 million people are estimated to have died of TB in 2006 - up by 100,000 from 2005.
TB has also been on the increase in the UK, and with 8,000 new cases a year, TB rates in the UK are at their highest level since 1987.
On Good Friday (21 March) it was reported that the first British case of Extensively Drug-Resistant TB (XDR-TB) had been diagnosed in a patient being treated in a Glasgow hospital. In its XDR form the disease is virtually untreatable.
Nick Herbert commented: "While there is no cause for alarm, this case is a wake-up call to British politicians and the public about the global resurgence of a disease which can be a killer. Most people think that TB is a disease of the past, but in fact it is a pandemic of the present. With more concerted global action, most of the 1.7 million people who die of TB each year could be treated relatively easily and cheaply. But the latest drug resistant forms of the disease present a serious new challenge."
In February the World Health Organisation warned that Multi Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB) now represents an estimated 500,000 (5 per cent) of all TB cases, while XDR-TB is present in 45 countries. There are now 40,000 XDR cases every year.
Notes for Editors
1. For the website of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Tuberculosis (APPG on Global TB), visit www.appg-tb.org.uk.
2. The Stop TB Partnership was set up in 2000 with the aim of eliminating tuberculosis as a public health concern. It is made up of an association of over 500 international organisations, countries, donors from both the public and private sectors, and governmental and nongovernmental organisations. For the website of the Stop TB Partnership, visit http://www.stoptb.org/.
3. A link to the World Health Organisation's 2008 Global Tuberculosis Control Report can be found at: http://www.who.int/tb/publications/global_report/2008/en/index.html.
4. A link to the World Health Organisation's Fourth Global Anti-Tuberculosis Drug Resistance in the World Report can be found at: http://www.who.int/tb/publications/2008/drs_report4_26feb08.pdf.