"Thirteen TB Deaths Every Day of the Year: A Persistent Crisis in Papua New Guinea"

By: PNG Business News May 31, 2023

Contrary to recent news outlets, PNG Business News aims to shed light on PNG's ongoing tuberculosis (TB) crisis. In 2020, the global number of TB deaths rose for the first time in a decade, and the situation in PNG is particularly dire. With thirteen daily TB-related deaths, the impact on workforce health and productivity is significant, as TB cases and fatalities mainly affect individuals of working age and children.

Tuberculosis remains a leading infectious disease worldwide, claiming the lives of over 1.6 million people in the last year alone. It continues to be the primary cause of death for individuals living with HIV.

While recent news has focused on the reduced threat level of the COVID pandemic, the repercussions of COVID-induced shutdowns on TB and HIV services persist. Delayed diagnoses and interrupted treatments have resulted in more deaths, severe cases, and increased hospitalisations.

To address this crisis, we call for attention to the headline: "Thirteen, 100% Preventable TB Deaths Every Day," emphasizing that TB is both preventable and curable. We urge every media outlet to share this headline, accompanied by details highlighting the preventability and curability of TB.

Unfortunately, TB in PNG often goes unnoticed amidst other news dominating the headlines. A quick internet search reveals a plethora of news items concerning geographical and diplomatic issues, followed by reports on PNG's economy. These economic updates discuss topics such as fiscal deficit reduction and the government's efforts to safeguard macroeconomic stability. However, there is a notable absence of news regarding the need for increased funding in national TB programs or the toll TB takes on workforce productivity, essential for success in global markets.

The news frequently covers special economic zones, loans, and debt discussions without mentioning the costs of TB to the nation's reputation, economy, or its National TB program. The hardworking national TB program team, heavily reliant on international donors like the Global Fund and the Australian government, receives little recognition for their contributions towards training, expertise, testing and treatment innovations, workforce development, and the expansion of TB and HIV services.

While glossy World Bank reports may be of interest to social media warriors advocating for change, they fail to address the importance of reducing TB deaths and drug resistance rates in relation to autonomy and economic sustainability.

In 2016, the WHO estimated that the median cost per patient for TB treatment was USD 1,253 or approximately PGK 4,500.  With an additional 42,000 new TB cases projected this year, the required funding for treating drug-sensitive TB amounts to nearly 200 million kina.

Let's then consider and add  the cost of treating drug-resistant TB.  The WHO estimated the median cost per patient for MDR-TB treatment at a whopping USD 9,529 or PGK 34,000. Based on last year's figures, we can expect another 2,000 cases of drug-resistant TB this year. Consequently, we must add PGK 68,000,000 to the previous 200,000,000. Here's the headline:

"As COVID Surviving Business Leaders, Let's Address TB: Over 5,000 Lives and a Quarter of a Billion Kina at Stake in PNG AGAIN THIS Year"

To grab your attention and highlight the urgency of the matter, we invite you to engage with the Businesses for Health’s mission to end TB and the burden it places on your workforce, their families and local communities.  Allow us to speak to your board and management team and enrol your employees in Businesses for Health: TB & HIV workplace TB training program.

By taking immediate action, we can collectively combat this pressing issue, save lives, and safeguard the economic stability and prosperity of Papua New Guinea."

Thank you annmclarke@businesses4health.com

See www.businesses4health.com for training dates in Port Moresby, Lae or by arrangement in your workplace.

Dr Ann Clarke

Businesses for Health PNG

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