Rother Valley MP Sir Kevin Barron has backed the call for global action to fight tuberculosis following World TB Day on Monday (24th March).
Every year, more than one million people die from a disease that many people consider to have already been eradicated.
Tuberculosis is airborne, infectious, drug-resistant and found in every country in the world, and yet in the UK, more people associate it with badgers than they do with humans.
On this year’s World TB Day parliamentarians from around the world came together to sign a statement calling for renewed action against the disease.
The statement has been signed by over 150 representatives from across the G7 countries and the European Parliament.
Sir Kevin, who was one of more than 30 Labour MPs and Peers to sign the statement, said: “TB has killed more people than any other infectious disease in history and still kills 1.3 million people every single year.”
“The only way that we’re going to beat the disease is if we have coordinated, global action, which is why I signed that statement.”
Members of the House of Commons and House of Lords make up over half of all the politicians who have signed the statement, reflecting the fact that TB remains a significant problem in the UK.
Parts of the country have rates to match those found in some of the worst affected countries in the world, and London has the highest rates of any capital city in western Europe.
“People just don’t appreciate what a problem TB really is” continued Sir Kevin, who saw TB first-hand on a parliamentary delegation to Ethiopia in 2013.
“It’s a terrible disease and whilst it can be treated and cured, the drugs are toxic and extremely unpleasant.”
“It’s far better to stop the disease by preventing cases in the first place.”
Every year, three million people, one-third of everyone who gets TB, are never officially diagnosed or treated.
This contributes to the continued spread of the disease, and the development of worrying strains that are resistant to anti-TB drugs.
“Drug-resistance is a real concern, and it’s here in the UK,” said Sir Kevin.
“It’s even more difficult and expensive to treat than standard TB and just as easily transmitted.”
Aaron Oxley, executive director of RESULTS UK, an organisation which focuses on TB, added: “There is a lot we need to tackle the disease, but it all starts with political commitment.”
“We’ve never had so many politicians from across the world sign onto one call for action. This is a significant moment in the fight against TB.”