Regional Mission Director Lawrence Hardy Welcome Remarks at the 6th International Conference on Integrated Tuberculosis (TB) Control in Central Asia

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Friday, September 23, 2022
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Minister Azhar Giniyat, Dr. Hans Kluge, Dr. Dumitru Laticevschi, Ms Zarina Kamasova, Dr. Malik Adenov, distinguished dignitaries and speakers, guests, and participants -- Good morning!

It is a great honor to be here today. The United States Agency for International Development is proud to support the Sixth International Conference on Integrated Tuberculosis Control in Central Asia.

I want to thank our partners in Kazakhstan – the Honorable Minister of Health, Dr. Azhar Giniyat; Director of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge; the Member of Mazhilis of Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan Ms. Zarina Kamasova;  the Global Fund Regional Manager Dr. Dumitru Laticevschi; and Director of the National Scientific Center of Phthisiopulmonolgy, Dr. Malik Adenov, for co-hosting this important international conference in Central Asia.

Today, Kazakhstan is celebrating the 90th Anniversary of the National Tuberculosis Program! I congratulate the National TB Program on this anniversary and express my most sincere gratitude for our strong partnership in combating TB in Kazakhstan and Central Asia.

The National Scientific Center of Phthisiopulmonolgy has a rich history.  Looking back to 1932 when the Center was first established, Kazakhstan was developing economically and socially, including its medical field.  Nevertheless, the basic lifesaving drugs to treat TB had not yet been identified – which is hard to imagine, given the treatment options available today.  Over the next few decades, global understanding of tuberculosis grew, and treatment options advanced.  By the 1970s, this Center with modest beginnings had developed into the largest TB scientific, research, diagnosis and treatment center in the Soviet Union.

With independence in the 1990s, there was a sharp deterioration in public health, including tuberculosis, across post-Soviet countries. Around that same time,  the World Health Organization declared TB as a global emergency – the first infectious disease to be declared as such.  In that same period, 30 years ago, USAID’s  lasting and productive partnership with Kazakhstan began.

Thanks to the strong political and financial commitment of the Government of Kazakhstan, the Center has regained its role as a leader in the region for prevention, detection and treatment of tuberculosis. Today, the modern Center is well equipped and has a full complement of 600 dedicated staff, providing highly specialized and effective medical care. 

Through improved diagnostics, treatment, and financing, Kazakhstan’s National TB Program has made remarkable progress in addressing the grave public health threat of TB.  A strong indication of the political commitment is the fact that the government of Kazakhstan fully funds the National TB Program. These investments have paid off, and in the last decade alone, TB incidence has decreased more than 2.5 times and TB mortality by more than five fold. These are impressive achievements and I congratulate the government of Kazakhstan on these accomplishments.  It should also be acknowledged that Kazakhstan has met targets set by the UN High Level Meeting on TB and also achieved the 2020 WHO End TB Strategy milestones – critically important contributions to the global effort to end TB. 

These accomplishments have set a strong trajectory towards achieving even more ambitious milestones.  And, as the global TB community is planning for the next UN High Level Meeting on TB in September 2023, Kazakhstan can serve as a shining example of how strong political commitment translates into tangible results.

Despite these investments and efforts, drug-resistant tuberculosis continues to pose a challenge. It impacts people like Murat, who, during a routine health visit unexpectedly learned that he had TB. Furthermore, Murat had developed multi-drug resistant TB, which is much more difficult to treat.  His life was put on hold while he went through a very difficult course of treatment. Thanks to his courage, he was successfully cured – and was so impacted by the experience that he now runs an NGO “Sanat Alemi”, the first community organization in Kazakhstan focused on supporting people with TB.  USAID is proud to work with  “Sanat Alemi” and others to eradicate TB from Kazakhstan.

Countries around the world, including in Central Asia, were reminded by the COVID-19 pandemic how critical it is to be prepared to address respiratory diseases, which quickly spread across borders. While the COVID-19 pandemic hindered progress in fighting tuberculosis, Central Asia was able to leverage the strong expertise of its TB health care professionals to respond to COVID-19 due to their skills in active case detection, contact tracing, and airborne infection control. 

USAID will continue to contribute resources towards Kazakhstan’s efforts to detect TB, including through the expansion of community screenings, while also supporting simultaneous testing for TB and COVID-19, scaling up contact investigations for both diseases, and increasing support to local, on-the-ground partners. 

To this end, USAID reaffirms its support and partnership with the National TB Program to provide universal access to faster TB diagnosis and treatment, and to strengthen the role of community-based organizations in supporting TB service delivery. Ultimately, to effectively address TB in Kazakhstan and in Central Asia, we must engage and collaborate across countries, and different sectors, including health, social services, private sector, and media.

I am confident our strong regional cooperation in Central Asia will continue to grow and deepen to combat TB and save lives. I have no doubt that together, we can end TB.

I wish you all good health and a productive conference!

Thank you! -- Raqmet! – spaSEEbah!

Last updated: September 23, 2022

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