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World TB Day 2015

24 March, 2015
WORLD TB DAY YELLOW CAMELLIA_CAMELLIA NITIDISSIMAWorld TB Day is here again and across the globe small scale efforts, such as the adoption of a floral emblem for this special occasion, are taking place to raise awareness about tuberculosis disease. This year the theme is “Reach, Treat, Cure Everyone” with 2SER and The Wire spreading the message. In Australia, the Centenary Institute, the Woolcock Institute, and the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Tuberculosis Control are working together to take a leading role in TB research throughout Southeast Asia, Oceania and the Pacific.
As the quintessential social disease, anthropologists are encouraged to take a proactive approach in the battle against this infectious disease. A number of recent books including Free Market Tuberculosis by Erin Koch, Spitting Blood by Helen Bynum, The Ailing City by Diego Armus, and Circe’s Island by Isabel Gillard offer a fantastic entry point into understanding the social history and cultural dimensions of the disease. Two Special Virtual Issues on the history of tuberculosis are also available online in the journals, Social History of Medicine (2013) and Medical History (2015). Last year, the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry invited responses about the issue of privacy and treatment in a case study about latent tuberculosis infection. Keep an eye out, because this year the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry have another TB case study that readers can respond to.

From prisons to the rapidly urbanising industrial cities of the developing world, tuberculosis is a major global concern with a frightening number of hot zones around the world. Initiatives addressing the rise of this infectious disease in places like Vietnam, India, China and also the countries of the Pacific such as Papua New Guinea need urgent support. TB should not be thought of as solely a problem of developing countries. Korea, for example, is one of the 34 nations belonging to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and yet has a very high incidence rate of TB. According to the World Health Organisation, Korea’s incidence rate of TB in 2012 was 108 out of 100,000. In that year, TB claimed the lives of more than 2,400 people according to the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It should be said, however, that despite a mixed history of successes and difficulties in dealing with TB, Korea has strong government commitment and a sound technical capacity to conduct TB research and accelerate TB control. TB research in Korea has been identified as an area requiring urgent attention with a recent boost in biomedical research funds led by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Productive topics of TB research in Korea have included cellular and molecular studies, gene studies, drug development, vaccine development, basic research, and clinical trials. Korea has exhibited tremendous success in reducing the prevalence of TB since 1965 and is considered to provide insights into how tuberculosis control programs can reduce the prevalence and mortality of TB in other parts of Asia. While TB research in Korea has exhibited success worthy of learning from, prevalence of TB in Korea has displayed no significant decrease since the late 1990s and renewed research efforts into basic science and clinical research are necessary. Korea is located in a region with a very high burden of TB. Asia accounts for more than half of cases worldwide. The epidemic should be understood as a global problem, because TB is spread through social contact and infectious microorganisms easily cross national borders. Optimising TB research and healthcare services in one country contributes significantly to lowering TB incidence rates throughout the world. Rather than dumping sputum samples over your head, anthropologists can contribute to TB research in a number of ways that including interviews with patients, critical analysis of the dominance of the biomedical model, investigating the social determinants of disease, and developing holistic perspectives.

Key dates for 2015:

(i) TB Drug Development Workshop, Sydney, 28-29 May 2015
Please contact Dr Gabriella Scandurra for more information.

(ii) 6-17 July, the TB Research Training Summer School at McGill University.

(ii). APR TB Union Meeting, Sydney, 31 August – 2 September 2015
The Asia Pacific Region TB Union conference will be in Sydney, Australia. I hope to co-host a workshop on TB, Human Rights and the Law, and the call for abstracts for research presentations is currently open.

(iii). Tuberculosis Symposium, Sydney, 3-4 September 2015
The Woolcock Institute will host the Tuberculosis Symposium on the 3rd-4th September 2015 just after the APR TB Union meeting. Confirmed speakers include, Mario Raviglione, Simon Schaaf, Dick Menzies, and Marcel Behr. If you come to the APR TB Union meeting, make sure you stick around for the Tuberculosis Symposium. If enough of you are interested in coming to Sydney for the APR TB Union meeting and the Tuberculosis Symposium, then I would be more than happy to organise a special event for us!

(iv). 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health, Cape Town, South Africa, 2-6 December 2015

(v). International Conference on the Politics and Ethics of Infection, Sydney University, 10-13 December.

PEI_logoThe Politics and Ethics of Infection Node within the Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity (MBI) and the Centre for Values, Ethics and Law in Medicine (VELiM) will be hosting an international conference on the Politics and Ethics of Infection from 10 to 13 December 2015, at the University of Sydney. A call for papers will be issued shortly. Researchers from all disciplines with an interest in  the ethics and politics of intensification, resistance, surveillance, communication, migration and movement, research and one health/ecology in relation to infectious disease, are encouraged to participate.

Location: The University of Sydney
Please contact Dr Claire Hooker for more information.

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