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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3451

Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (19:55): I rise to support this motion by the member for Melbourne Ports. World Tuberculosis Day is on this week, on 24 March. TB is a disease that is preventable, treatable, curable and kills 1.5 million globally every year. That is almost the equivalent of the population of Perth. The reason for that is in part because the most widely used diagnostic tools are antiquated, they are slow and they are not always accurate. The 50-year-old drug regime is only effective with strict adherence to a minimum six-month course of treatment. The currently used vaccines are only partially effective. Tuberculosis is a serious infectious disease and, despite the availability of effective treatment, it remains a major global health problem. TB is also the biggest killer of people living with HIV, accounting for one in four AIDS related deaths. It is a well-controlled and manageable disease in Australia where infection rates have remained stable for more than 20-years, at just over five per 100,000 people.

In its pulmonary form TB is easily spread when an infected person simply laughs, coughs, sneezes or even talks. Two billion people globally—one in three people—carry the TB bacilli but only one in 10 of these people will develop active TB in their lifetime. However TB thrives in the conditions of poverty and overcrowding and when people's immune systems are poor, due to things such as very poor nutrition, diabetes and especially HIV.

Many countries on Australia's doorstep have high burdens of tuberculosis. There are more than 400,000 new cases of TB diagnosed in Indonesia annually and in Timor Leste infection rates are 100 times higher than in Australia. In our nearest neighbour, Papua New Guinea, the problems may be even greater. TB in Papua New Guinea has increased by over 42 per cent over the last 10-years and is still rising. The increase is disproportionately large compared to the growth in population over the same period. While it is commendable that AusAID is spending $8 million in the Western Province, it makes the decision by the Bligh Labor government to close the TB clinics in Saibai and Boigu islands even more baffling. The closure of these clinics has the potential for increasing the risk of TB exposure for Torres Strait Islander citizens from inter-island travel by PNG nationals and increasing the risk of multi drug resistance and developing a lack of adequate frontline clinical appropriate TB care.

World TB Day seeks to eliminate TB around the world and generally elimination means achieving an incidence rate of one case per one million of population or lower. Currently the prevalence rate is estimated to be 430 per 100,000 population and the death rate is estimated to be 60 per 100,000 population. Those figures were for the year 2007. The Asia-Pacific region, our neighbourhood, has over half the global TB burden. That is why we must remain strongly committed to responding to the global challenge posed by TB. The Global Fund has pursued a practical program of activities that has delivered noticeable progress in the fight against the disease in the developing world. In September 2007 the former coalition government pledged $135 million over three years following its previous four-year pledge of a total of $75 million since 2004.

Australia has provided $250 million to the Global Fund and is committed to providing a further $170 million by 2013. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, and despite the success of the Global Fund in fighting these diseases, saving 100,000 lives each and every month, the funding is at a critical crossroad which puts the organisation's work in great jeopardy and threatens to reverse progress in HIV treatment and prevention. I support the motion and I congratulate the Global Fund and all of the NGOs. I particularly want to acknowledge the work of RESULTS International in fighting to beat this disease. I also acknowledge all of the other NGOs working with the Global Fund to ensure that we cut the rate of this terrible scourge. I wish to acknowledge the great work they have done so far. (Time expired)