SA and other BRICS must triple TB research funding

LIVERPOOL, THURSDAY 27th OCTOBER: In 2015 tuberculosis (TB) killed 1.8 million people on the planet. This is more than any other infectious disease, including HIV. Yet, investment in TB research remains disgracefully low.

A new report by the United States-based Treatment Action Group (TAG) launched this week showed that total global funding for TB research has fallen in the last year (from USD 686,303,295m to USD 674,036,495m). The world only invests a third of the USD 2 billion that the World Health Organisation says is needed per year if we are to end TB.

A year ago the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) lead a march of 9 organisations at the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Cape Town. One of our demands at that march was that BRICS countries should triple their investment in TB research. A year later, as the next Union World Conference takes place in Liverpool this call appears to have been ignored.

According to the TAG report, the BRICS countries had almost half of the world’s TB cases and TB deaths in 2015, but only contributed 4.3% of global public financing for TB research in this period.

“We die of TB, but our governments are failing to invest in TB research,” says Anele Yawa, TAC General Secretary. “The only explanation for this lack of investment is that most of us who get TB are poor – and poor people are not a priority for our governments. We urge the presidents and finance Ministers of all the BRICS countries to stop ignoring the deaths of poor people.”

Over half of all public money for TB research and development from 2011 to 2015 came from the United States. In 2015 South African universities received more funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation than from the South African Medical Research Council or other domestic agencies. It is deeply disturbing that our own researchers, working on a domestic crisis, are so highly dependent on US funding.

The TB R&D report is released shortly after the United Nations Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Access to Medicines released a landmark report. One of the recommendations of that UN report was “It is imperative that governments increase their current levels of investment in health technology innovation to address unmet needs.”

We urge members of the public to sign this petition:  http://www.treatmentactiongroup.org/tb/brics

The full R&D report can be read here: http://www.treatmentactiongroup.org/sites/g/files/g450272/f/201511/TB_FUNDING_2015_WEB.pdf

For more information, contact:

Mary-Jane Matsolo | TAC Campaigns Officer | mary-jane@tac.org.za

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