Remarks by Ambassador Richard R. Verma at the Launch of the TB Detection Mobile Van Pilot Project at Medanta, The Medicity

Friday, November 20, 2015
Toward a Tuberculosis-free India
Launch of the Tuberculosis (TB) detection mobile van pilot project
U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma, Chief Minister of Haryana Manohar Lal Khattar, Bollywood legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan, and Dr. Naresh Trehan at the launch of the Tuberculosis (TB) detection mobile van pilot project in the state of Haryana.
U.S. Embassy, New Delhi

(As prepared for delivery)
Chief Minister Khattar, Minister Vij, Mr. Bachchan, Dr. Trehan, corporate leaders, our friends from the media, ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for inviting me here today to participate in this launch, an effort that I hope will take us one step closer to a TB-free Haryana and a TB-free India. 

Tuberculosis (TB) is silently killing India. An estimated 2.2 million cases are reported annually: of these 220,000 prove fatal. Or to put it simply, two people die of TB every three minutes in India. This is the highest number of deaths from TB anywhere in the world.  

And this is why we are here today.  By working together, to ensure that people don’t continue to die from a disease that is preventable and curable.  

The Government of India has already made significant progress in controlling TB.  India’s success rate in treatment was 88 percent in 2013 compared to 25 percent in 1995. The WHO reports that between 2013 and 2014, reporting of new TB cases in India increased by 29 percent. 

To support this progress,  the United States Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is working collaboratively with the Government of India (GOI), the private sector and local partners to India in its fight against TB. 

At the national level, USAID is supporting the GOI’s Call to Action For a TB-Free India – a full-scale campaign, launched nationwide on April 23, 2015, to engage healthcare providers, corporate partners, media, celebrities, civil society, academia, and patients to end TB in India.  

This will be achieved by encouraging the adoption and implementation of best practices for the prevention, detection and treatment of TB as well as by raising awareness to reduce the social stigma associated with the disease and empower communities fighting to end TB. 

In addition, USAID will soon initiate the Tuberculosis Health Action Learning Initiative (THALI), a $22.5 million program that will complement the Revised National TB Control Program (RNTCP) by engaging municipal governments and private providers to prevent, test, and treat TB in select cities in India. The program will help urban communities in at least five Indian cities by strengthening the capacity of private providers to follow international standards for TB care, diagnosis and treatment and by testing and scaling innovations that improve treatment adherence. For example, USAID is supporting the first national anti-TB drug resistance survey and the first large-scale pilot project to diagnose TB among people living with HIV.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are working closely with the Government of India to support India’s Revised National TB Control Program.  Specifically, CDC is partnering with Indian institutions to strengthen TB laboratories, improve airborne infection control, and support efforts to improve diagnosis and treatment.  

NIH is partnering with Indian researchers to develop new tools for TB prevention, treatment and control through a multi-million dollar research initiative.  This effort is linked to a global network designed to produce discoveries that will benefit not only Indians but also millions of others who are infected with TB or who live in TB-endemic countries.

I am also happy to see the partnership between the United States and Haryana grow.  A few months ago I was in Gurgaon at the invitation of the honorable Chief Minister to jointly launch the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ initiative.  Haryana is already one of USAID’s focus states for maternal and child health efforts.  I am excited to be back now with Chief Minister Khattar to partner with the government and private sector on TB. 

We are very grateful to Mr. Bachchan for joining with us in this campaign.  Mr. Bachchan, your personal story as a TB survivor, and your public commitment to this cause, will help to lift social stigma surrounding this disease. Together, we will improve prevention, detection and treatment of TB in Haryana and in India.  

Today, I’d especially like to congratulate Dr. Trehan and the entire Medanta team on their efforts to control TB.  I met Dr. Trehan at the Mumbai Corporate Dialogue in September, which I launched along with Mr. Bachchan and Mr. Ratan Tata, Chairman, Sir Ratan Tata Trusts. Together, we invited the private sector and stakeholders to join us in the fight against TB and to further strengthen the Government of India’s Call to Action for a TB-Free India.  I am very gratified that Dr. Trehan is taking the fight to eradicate Tuberculosis forward. 

Thanks to his and others’ efforts, the TB detection mobile vans that will be deployed today are equipped with the latest diagnostic instruments and trained medics. These medics will give the people of Haryana expanded access to quality services.  I see this as a great step forward to making Haryana and India TB-Free. 

It is also truly gratifying to see leaders from the private sector complementing the governments’ efforts in identifying TB patients and connecting them with the Revised National TB Control Program, which I am told is the largest and one of the most effective in the world.  This is a perfect example of how the government and the private sector can work together to improve the lives of millions by helping them gain access to high quality health services. 

In the future, we hope that more private sector companies will come forward to support this important cause.  In fact, we’re counting on all of you to help us harness creativity and innovation in both the public and private sectors, and by joining the campaign to end TB.  

Ending TB is not only good for India and its citizens. It’s important for business as well.  It will ensure a healthier and more productive future for India.  But most importantly, we need to win this fight so those two patients who are dying every three minutes will instead have long, productive lives. 

Please join us in this important fight.  Together, we can win it, for India’s people and the world’s.  

Thank You. 

Issuing Country