Monday, August 26, 2013

Tuberculosis an international emergency

Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the deadliest diseases of our times--nearly one-third of the world’s population is infected with the bacteria causing it, chronic active cases of TB are estimated at nearly 14 million people with millions of new cases every year (since the disease is contagious as hell), nearly two million people die from it every year, & it is one of the top three killers of women aged 15-44.

The global distribution of TB comes as no surprise, with 80% primarily in Asian & African countries (euphemistically referred to as “developing countries” when they would be more aptly called plundered nations). We’re informed by several sources that TB is due to compromised immunity which they attribute to HIV infection & AIDS, called the most important risk factor globally but especially in sub-Saharan Africa. So of course the solution they devise is more pharmaceuticals to throw at the disease.

Well if drugs solved the problem, throwing vaccines at it would be swell (even without the rise of drug-resistant strains) but they’ve known for well over 100 years that TB is one of the principal diseases of poverty, of malnutrition & overcrowding & it’s also a major occupational illness, especially among miners all over the world suffering silicosis & chronic lung disease. Since it’s a pulmonary disease, it sure doesn’t help if you smoke or drink but they are aggravators, not the cause. Those scientists (of the kind that sing for their supper) who claim they’ve found a genetic susceptibility to TB should be dismissed with a kick in the ass.

There are some things in life human beings cannot live without. We can live without palatial estates or even McMansions; we can live without fancy cars or second homes or annual vacations. But we cannot live without adequate clean food & clean water; we cannot do well without sanitation; we require housing that is clean & spacious enough so we’re not living on top of each other; & we require health care when we’re sick. The problem is neoliberal capitalism finds these incompatible with their insatiable greed. TB & cholera & leprosy can be wiped out but not without addressing social inequality & colonial plunder. When the pharmaceutical industry throws drugs at these health crises it is to mask the political, social, & economic plunder causing them in the first place.

These fellows are scavenging a garbage dump in Mumbai for recyclables they can sell. This is how hundreds of thousands of people around the world, including children, are forced to earn a meager survival. These piles of decaying food, feces & manure, filth & decay compounded by their poor nutrition are a breeding ground for TB & a dozen other respiratory diseases.

(Photo by David Rochkind)

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