Remarks by the Ambassador of Tanzania to the United States
HIS EXCELLENCY OMBENI SEFUE, AT THE EVENT MARKING THE TENTATIVE APPROVAL OF THE 100TH ANTI-RETROVIRAL DRUG AUTHORIZED IN ASSOCIATION WITH PEPFAR, PAN AMERICAN HEALTH ORGANIZATION, WASHINGTON DC, OCTOBER 06, 2009
I want to thank the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the World Health Organization (WHO) for organizing today’s event marking the tentative approval of 100th anti-retroviral drug authorized in association with PEPFAR.
I thank you all for inviting me to participate in this important milestone in the global efforts to contain a disease that over a decade ago threatened to decimate the population of many countries, wreak havoc with their economies and create an unsustainable societal burden of raising millions of orphans, most of whom were in sub Saharan Africa.
My country, Tanzania, and her people are among the most severely affected by HIV/AIDS. About 1.4 million Tanzanians live with HIV with an adult (age 15-49) prevalence rate of 6.2%. Close to 100,000 people have died from AIDS, and about 1 million children aged 0-17 years have been orphaned due to AIDS. In the past, before care and treatment programs made possible by wide use of generic drugs, these people would die only after selling off everything in their possession in a futile attempt afford treatment, leaving their families completely destitute.
That is why I am so grateful that Tanzania is among the major beneficiaries of US government support in the fight against HIV/AIDS, through PEPFAR and other programs. Support under PEPFAR has increased from $70.7 mi (2004) to a peak of $313.4 mi (2008) and $311.2 million in the current fiscal year. Over these five years, the PEPFAR program has exceeded its target with almost 900,000 people living with HIV and AIDS now enrolled in various care and treatment programs. Over a third of those in need of ARVs are receiving treatment under PEPFAR, including under prevention of mother-to-child viral transmission programs. Over 1.9 million pregnant women have received HIV counseling and testing since 2004 and close to 85,000 HIV positive ones have received prophylaxis ARV since then. As a result, today, many more children of HIV positive mothers are born free form the deadly virus.
I am here, on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries of these programs in Tanzania, to say thank you very much for PEPFAR and other programs, and for the decision to buy generic anti-retroviral drugs with PEPFAR resources.
As a result, as we have heard, over 4 million people in low and middle-income countries were receiving antiretroviral treatment at the end of 2008, marking a 36% increase over the previous year, or a ten-fold increase over a period of five years. Prices, especially for first-line regimens, have gone down making it possible to cover more people. This has been our experience in Tanzania.
In December 2005, only 23,000 people were receiving ARV treatment under a public care and treatment plan, or less than 10% of those in need. Today, more than half are covered.
I am here to say thank you to the pharmaceutical companies that that have issued licenses for the manufacture of generic drugs that have made possible this rapid expansion of HIV/AIDS care and treatment. I thank them for the tremendous work that produced the drugs.
I am here to thank pharmaceutical and other charitable foundations and research institutions that support HIV/AIDS care and treatment in Tanzania.
We all know that effective HIV/AIDS care and treatment requires an appropriate health service delivery infrastructure and human resource capacity. I want to thank those that help us address this challenge. By way of example, since the partnership between the government of Tanzania and the Abbott Fund began in 2001, the Fund has spent $60 million to strengthen Tanzania’s health system and train health care workers. Abbott Fund built a new outpatient center at Muhimbili National Hospital and renovated, automated and computerized the central pathology laboratory.
They are conducting a nationwide Regional Laboratory Modernization Project that began at Mt Meru Hospital in Arusha and is now being rolled out to cover 23 regional and 77 district hospitals, increasing the capacity and speed of testing. With the Touch Foundation, they are supporting the training of 105 laboratory technicians at the Bugando University College of Health Sciences. There are many more partners working with us, such as WHO, Global Fund, CDC, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, FDA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Foundation, The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and many others including universities and faith-based organizations.
The combination of these efforts and the greater availability of generic ARVs has helped us:
- Slow down the decline in life expectancy
- Reduce mother-to-child viral transmission
- Slow down the incidence of orphans
- Reduce poverty by keeping breadwinners alive
- Reduce the number of hospital admissions, thereby saving on health care delivery costs
- Retain educated and skilled workforce, including teachers, health professionals, civil servants, armed forces, and self employed people, and minimize effect of HIV/AIDS on productivity
- Reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on economic growth
- Encourage voluntary counseling and testing, and
- Reduce stigma.
In conclusion, I want to repeat our gratitude, and to commend the unique global partnerships that have made all this possible. There is still a lot of work ahead of us, however, and your continued support remains necessary. We have not yet attained universal coverage of voluntary counseling and treatment, and of care and treatment. There are challenges with effectiveness and cost of second-line regimens. There are issues of drug integrity, resistance, financial resource sustainability, supply chain management, prevention, and others. The successful partnership we have seen in the past has to continue, and I am here to encourage such continued partnership.
I thank you for your kind attention.