Australia

Business has key role in PNG's war on TB

There are 35,000 new cases of tuberculosis in Papua New Guinea each year and the business community has been urged to play a proactive role in stamping it out.

Businesses operating in Papua New Guinea have received a call to arms to get behind the war against tuberculosis.

A decade ago the corporate sector rallied to help reduce PNG's climbing HIV rates which were reaching 3000 new infections a year.

Now tuberculosis, with 35,000 new cases a year, is emerging as an even greater threat.

Dr Ann Clarke from Businesses for Health PNG made the case that employers had to be proactive about identifying cases within workforces and helping staff access free treatment, so they don't actively infect others.

"You can't ask someone to change their behaviour if they don't actually know where to go to," she told the Australia-PNG business forum in Brisbane.

There are 100 people falling ill from TB per day as well as five new drug-resistant TB cases.

The disease can shed 20 years off workers' lives and is costing the country productive wage earners.

"When a person loses their income they cannot send their children to school... they cannot pay the fees," she said.

"The loss to families is enormous."

The cost of treating Papua New Guineans for TB was about $US1300 ($A1,735) per case.

Dr Clarke said for every $1 that businesses spent on TB training and awareness, there would be a $14 return in the long run.

TB is a bacteria that affects the lungs and spreads via coughing and sneezing.

It is curable but without proper treatment two-thirds of sufferers die.

PNG struggles to tackle its TB outbreak because 85 per cent of the population live in remote areas with limited health care access.

Patients need to take a full drug treatment for up to six months to receive the all clear.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch