Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It’s an honor for the United States Embassy to be hosting you to — as both Mr. and Mrs. Constantin said — to discuss and find a way forward on a very important medical topic, of concern to the world, to America, but especially to Romania.
Tuberculosis remains a global challenge. Despite being preventable and curable, tuberculosis remains one of the primary infectious diseases that still generate thousands of illnesses and deaths every year. Some 9 million people get tuberculosis every year. Four millions are missing access do not have access to proper diagnosis and treatment. As a result, tuberculosis kills nearly 2 million individuals globally, mostly in the developing world.
Worldwide, less than half of all individuals diagnosed with drug-resistant tuberculosis are successfully treated and cured. And tuberculosis is also the leading killer of people with HIV, accounting for 1 in 4 HIV-related deaths.
The United States Government and the global community share a vision of a world free from tuberculosis. To achieve this vision and to end all deaths due to tuberculosis the United States Government has committed to work with partners around the world, to try to reach every person afflicted with the disease, to cure those in need of treatment and to prevent the spread of the disease and new infections.
The U.S. Government is a leader in the global fight against tuberculosis. Over the past five years, we have invested more than or close to 3 billion dollars to combat tuberculosis globally.
The U.S. Embassy here in Bucharest has also provided direct assistance to Romania in its fight against tuberculosis through, believe it or not, our Office for Defense Cooperation. Las September, through the European Command, we donated – it was a modest amount – but we donated 150 tuberculosis rapid test kits worth about USD 150,000 to the Marius Nasta National Immunology Institute in Bucharest. These kits allow doctors to identify multiple drug-resistant TB cases earlier, allowing them to begin effective treatment immediately.
Romania has approximately one fourth of all tuberculosis cases in the European Union and the European economic area and one third of all drug-resistant cases despite having only 4% of the population of these areas. As a consequence, Romania faces the challenge of securing funds for the complete implementation of its national strategy. The Government of Romania and the Ministry of Health should prioritize securing the gaps in funding the tuberculosis program to help eradicate this disease in Romania.
One of my priorities, one of my objectives as Ambassador of the United States to Romania is to improve and enhance the prosperity of our two countries, of American citizens, but also of Romanian citizens. Our goal in this priority is to build a stronger, healthier, democratic Romania, to be a stronger partner, a stronger ally of the United States.
Health is a major challenge for Romania, as the events of the past few weeks have unfortunately and tragically demonstrated again and I would like to encourage both the Romanian Government, but also Romanian society to put appropriate emphasis on improving its health infrastructure and eventually health outcomes. And TB is one disease that is subject to relatively rapid improvement once adequate resources are focused on it. It is a disease associated with the poor and by eliminating the disease it could also help the economic and social outcomes for the poor. And by not doing so, Romania is holding as a whole back its social and economic development.
Today’s event I think is very important in that it allows us all to focus attention on this disease and, as the title of the conference suggests, try to find a way forward. So thank you for your participation and thank you for your attention.