By U.S. Ambassador Robert Blake
Tuberculosis (TB) is curable, but current efforts to find, treat, and cure everyone who gets ill with the disease are not reaching all those who need it. We need more partnerships between the public and private sector in order to develop innovative solutions that save lives and address global problems that affect us all.
Nine million people around the world get sick with TB each year. In 2013, in Indonesia 330,000 new cases were reported along with approximately 64,000 TB-related deaths. The Ministry of Health provides diagnostic facilities in most health centers as well as free treatment. And yet, Indonesia still has one of the highest global burdens of TB.
In recent years, we have seen the private sector partner with governments to create life-saving technologies and bring them to scale to benefit more people. Smart investments in science and technology have delivered new diagnostic tools that have made finding and treating TB easier and faster. We need more game-changing partnerships.
Rutgers University, Cephied Inc., and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics in the U.S., partnered to develop the GeneXpert machine, that can diagnose difficult to treat Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in two hours instead of two months. By receiving a diagnosis quickly, a patient can be treated immediately.
The easy-to-use machines were first introduced to nine provinces across Indonesia in early 2013, consequently the diagnosis of MDR-TB doubled over the previous year. This data indicates that in the past, thousands were “missed” by poor health systems.
The cost of the new machines might have hampered their distribution in Indonesia, but through a partnership between the United States and Indonesia, 41 GeneXpert machines are now in hospitals and health facilities across the archipelago. Plans are underway to purchase another 40 machines in the coming year which will accelerate Indonesia’s efforts to diagnose and treat TB.
Since introducing these machines to Indonesian medical facilities, patients receiving treatment within a week of diagnosis have increased from 2 percent to 18 percent and there has been a significant drop in mortality among MDR-TB patients. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supported this effort through training of health staff and lab technicians in diagnosis and treatment.
On this World TB Day, I hope the private sector will continue developing new innovative solutions and approaches that have the potential to save millions of lives. And to partner with governments to realize the global goal: Reach, treat and cure everyone!
For more information on USAID TB projects or USAID partnership opportunities, visit www.usaid.gov/indonesia or contact USAID Communications Officer Janice Laurente at +62 (21) 3435-9424 firstname.lastname@example.org.