Today, 24th of March, is World TB Day. This is of particular significance this year, as tuberculosis has become for the first time in many years, the deadliest infectious disease, killing 1.5 million people last year. TB has overtaken Aids/HIV as the leading infectious killer, and that is partly because it is a difficult disease to deal with. It is not easy to diagnose and its treatment is lengthy requiring over six months of treatment with multiple pills every day. TB is also a disease of the developing world, so unfortunately has not attracted as much funding from government or the pharmaceutical industry for the development of new treatments and vaccines.
What is particularly concerning about TB is that in some countries, the levels of the disease that are resistant to some or virtually all antibiotics is becoming worryingly high. If this trend continues, TB could become as much of danger in 21st century Britain as it was in the 18th century.
I was privileged to attend the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tuberculosis events in Parliament yesterday, and have a personal connection to the academic side of TB, as my first job after finishing my university studies was for the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College researching the impact of the Global Fund for Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s funding in the developing world.
The Global Fund, like the Gates Foundation is an incredibly important NGO that is doing important work to help eradicate diseases worldwide. As a conservative I am extremely proud of the support that this Government has provided to the Global Fund, being the third largest donor. This is extremely important this year, as the Global Fund raises money through replenishments, and this year is a replenishment year.
But what does this have to do with Hammersmith & Fulham? Many of you may be surprised to know that TB has unfortunately become a problem again in the UK and in particular in London. Whilst the incidence has fallen since 2011 due to action taken by the Government and the NHS it is still a concern, especially for some of London’s most deprived communities.
Hammersmith & Fulham unfortunately has on average 43 cases per year (2012-2014). This may not seem a lot, but compared with the national average of around 12 per 100,000 population, H&F’s is twice that at 24.2 per 100,000. I am going to write to the clinical commissioning group and the council to ensure that we are doing all we can to reduce the incidence of TB in H&F.
TB is something we have the knowledge and treatments to eradicate globally, especially if we address anti-microbial resistance. Let’s make a start by eradicating it Hammersmith & Fulham and across London.