Good morning! It is great to be here. Usually, my job keeps me in Windhoek, so I am very pleased to join you today here.
Travelling in this beautiful country is always a pleasure, especially when it is to see the amazing work the Ministry of Health and Social Services and its partners are doing.
Today, my first message is congratulations.
Congratulations on all you are doing to end TB in Namibia because you are saving lives. I recently learned that in 2020, 1.5 million people across the world lost their lives to TB. Sadly it was the first time in 17 years that we saw a global increase in deaths from TB. Therefore, now more than ever before, the work you are doing is vital, it is essential, and it is life-saving.
The United States government is a proud partner with the Ministry of Health and Social Services to end TB. This partnership has done so much.
It has helped roll out a new preventive treatment option that people can take for just 3 months rather than for 6 months.
We are working with the Ministry to get more healthcare workers trained in TB diagnosis and management.
Together we are improving TB monitoring by developing a new electronic reporting system. These are just some of the initiatives under way. I know there are many more activities going on that are just as impressive.
The theme for World TB Day 2022 is Invest to End TB. Save Lives. What a great theme. The U.S. government is committed to investing to end TB.
Through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), we invested US$3M ($N45m) this year in support of TB related life-saving interventions in Namibia.
My second message is to stay strong.
During the last two years, COVID-19 has made life harder for so many. We have all lost friends, colleagues and loved ones. Many people are suffering from increased financial hardships. COVID-19 also made things that we took for granted harder. Like going to the clinic for a checkup, or going to collect medicine.
But we have not allowed COVID-19 to defeat us. Many services have been moved into the community, including for TB. These achievements have actually made things easier for some people because they are able to get their medicine closer to home.
Therefore, stay strong. Keep making these kinds of innovations that help people in their daily lives. We can reduce the spread of TB through intensified case finding, contact tracing and TB Preventive Therapy (TPT). We can also reduce the spread of COVID-19 through testing, contact tracing and vaccination. If you need TB preventive therapy, talk to your healthcare provider today. If you are not yet vaccinated against COVID-19, I encourage you to get vaccinated today.
And my third and final message is to take action.
Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, despite being preventable and treatable.
I started by noting that there were 1.5 million deaths from TB in 2020. That translates to the loss of over 4,000 lives per day. Some of those lives lost have been in Namibia.
The world needs action. The U.S. government through PEPFAR is committed to continue working with Namibia to ensure that action is taken to save lives.
We will continue to support Namibia in providing TB prevention medicines.
We will continue to help find the people with TB who are not on treatment and help get them the treatment they need.
We will continue to work with the laboratories to quickly diagnose TB and return results as soon as possible, so that people can get the treatment they need. These are all actions that will help to save lives.
Therefore, in closing, congratulations, stay strong, and let us all take action.
Together we will end TB in Namibia.