Remarks by Ambassador Lisa Peterson: World TB Day Commemoration – Ebuhleni

Honorable Minister of Health,
His Royal Highness, Prince Tshekedi, Regional Administrator for Hhohho,
Program Director,
WHO Representative,
Members of UN Agencies,
Representatives from the NGO community,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

Siyanivusela Bekunene –

World TB Day is an opportunity to recognize our achievements in tuberculosis prevention and control, and renew our commitment to eliminating this devastating disease in Swaziland – and around the world. As the U.S. Mission, our focus remains to help strengthen Swaziland’s national response to TB, a disease that has a 70% coinfection rate with HIV, through targeted prevention and treatment. In recent years, we have seen encouraging declines in TB in Swaziland since the widespread use of antiretroviral therapy to treat HIV.

We recognize that controlling and eradicating TB requires strong partnerships. And we are grateful for the steadfast support of our implementing partners and stakeholders in this fight. This year, we will celebrate fifteen years of PEPFAR’s existence and its life-saving achievements thanks to American generosity. What seemed impossible just fifteen years ago – controlling the HIV epidemic – now feels more in our reach than ever.

Here in Swaziland, our small-but-mighty PEPFAR team – comprised of personnel from the Centers for Disease Control, USAID, and the U.S. Department of Defense –  engages with national, regional, and community partners to support coordinated TB interventions. At ground level, they are improving facilities and infrastructure to treat TB and strengthening NTCP capacity for the planning, coordinating, and monitoring of activities. Early indicators show an 84 percent TB treatment success rate today, up from 60 percent in 2006.

Through the CDC supported Laboratory Cooperative Agreement, PEPFAR helped train nine laboratory technologists on TB culture, species identification and drug susceptibility testing at the South African National Institute of Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg. In turn, increased mentoring and training for lab professionals strengthens TB lab testing and collaboration.

Together, with our partners, we are also expanding access to new drugs that treat multi-drug resistant TB, with 284 patients on treatment. And to inform future interventions, the PEPFAR team has also completed its data collection for the drug-resistant TB survey. With new information, we can better understand the prevalence of drug-resistant TB and chart a plan of action to address it. Taken together, these actions are making a difference in people’s lives – and we commend everyone who has chosen to play a part in the fight against TB.

Our successes, however, do not blind us to the challenges still left to overcome. If anything, those achievements keep driving us to show up and work hard each day. We are still witnessing higher mortality rates, almost 26 percent, among people co-infected with HIV and drug-resistant TB. This poses a new set of problems as we strive to reach our 95-95-95 goals and will require vigilant surveillance among health care providers.

We also encourage greater decentralization of basic management unit facilities to correspond with those health centers providing antiretroviral therapy. By linking the two, we can improve early detection of TB and get people on treatment right away.

Tuberculosis remains a serious challenge to global health, safety, and security. Now, we are racing against a clock to prevent and treat drug-resistant TB. Therefore, the investments in people, infrastructure, and resources made today, especially through PEPFAR and our partners, are critical to combatting the disease. For World TB Day – and every day – we’ll continue to work alongside you, united to end TB.