Good morning. It is wonderful to be here to celebrate the reopening of Botswana’s National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory. This facility is crucial to the diagnosis and treatment of TB patients across the country. It is a much needed tool in our fight to stop the spread of tuberculosis in Botswana.
It was my honor to participate in World TB Day in Palapye in March where we highlighted the “Unite to End TB” theme. The Government of Botswana has taken important steps to combat both TB and HIV and the United States is a proud partner in this noble effort.
Funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), both the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) support Botswana’s efforts to control TB and HIV. USAID’s Challenge TB organized the rehabilitation of this critical lab, with additional technical assistance provided by CDC. Through PEPFAR, the U.S. government has invested more than $40 million in the last decade in TB/HIV control in Botswana.
His Excellency the President, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama recently launched the “Treat All” policy providing ARVs to all Batswana citizens living with HIV. This bold move by the Government of Botswana will also significantly decrease new TB cases in the country.
TB has caused more deaths than any other infectious disease in the world. In Botswana, over eight thousand people develop TB every year, and it is responsible for over forty percent of deaths in the HIV-positive population. Two thirds of TB patients are co-infected with HIV: so we must fight the two diseases together to make real progress on either.
There has been an increase in the number of drug resistant TB cases globally. This requires our immediate attention. If left unchecked, drug resistant TB could erase decades of global progress combating this disease.
Proper lab results are a key part of this fight. For the past two years, this laboratory was unable to carry out culture testing for TB making it difficult to treat patients or even determine what kind of TB they had. Since this is the only reference lab serving the 28 health districts in Botswana, the entire population has been affected.
USAID came forward to help: working closely with the Government of Botswana to re-open the laboratory and providing a full-time technical adviser for expertise and support. We are pleased once again health workers, doing the important work of diagnosing and treating TB, will have this vital resource.
Over the years, the U.S. Government has supported eradication of TB in Botswana through various agencies, including USAID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These agencies offer cutting-edge technology and treatment, research studies, and direct community engagement to catch cases early and educate the population.
I commend the Government of Botswana for the reopening of this facility and for its “Treat All” policy, two key tools in curbing the spread of TB and HIV.
We have made tremendous lifesaving progress together. But like our battle against HIV, we have much work to do. Together with local and international partners, the private sector, and committed citizens, we must unite and commit to ending this disease. Let us continue to work together to realize the goal of a TB free generation in Botswana.
Kea Leboga. PULA!