Please allow me to begin today by first paying my respects to:
His Majesty King Letsie III
The Right Honorable the Prime Minister
The Honorable Minister of Health
Honorable Members of his Majesty’s Cabinet
Their Excellencies Heads of Diplomatic Missions and UN Agencies
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you all for joining us today for the Lesotho premier of The Lucky Specials, a movie designed around the model of social impact entertainment to educate audiences about and to demystify tuberculosis (TB). This is a full-length feature film made through a partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Discovery Learning Alliance, Quizzical Pictures, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Wellcome Trust, and Management Sciences for Health.
In just a few minutes we will be screening the full film. There are a lot of myths about TB, a disease that has devastated communities across southern Africa. And this film is a tool to engage communities on TB education, prevention, and treatment as well as drug adherence.
Here in Lesotho, this is particularly important because of the high rates of co-infection between TB and HIV. Indeed, TB is the leading cause of death among individuals living with HIV/AIDS – accounting for one in three AIDS-related deaths in 2015. According to the recent Global TB Report there were an estimated 17,000 TB cases in Lesotho in 2015. Of those 17,000 cases, 12,000 were co-infected with TB and HIV which is a 70% rate of co-infection. But, what’s important to understand, is that while TB can be deadly, it is also treatable. So it’s critically important that those who suspect they have TB and those who have been diagnosed with HIV seek treatment and adhere to your medication.
The TB and HIV epidemics are inexorable linked making it impossible to combat one without combating the other. For the past decade, the U.S. has been firmly committed to helping Lesotho fight both HIV and TB. This year, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. will provide $5.2 million in TB/HIV funds to support activities that help prevent the spread of TB and minimize deaths related to the disease. Working together with the Government of Lesotho and Global Fund, U.S. government funds will focus on the:
- Improving the early diagnosis of TB among PLHIV.
- Scaling-up TB preventive therapy (TPT) for all PLHIV without active TB.
- Continuing support for integration of TB/HIV care and treatment services for clinical staff;
- Scaling-up intensified TB case detection using a mobile laboratory focusing on high risk groups (factory workers, children, miners, contacts of TB cases)
- Providing support for TB/HIV services at border points of care to address TB/HIV among miners, ex-miners and their families.
- Supporting the Ministry of Health to enhance and implement effective surveillance and monitoring and evaluation systems at central, district, facility, and community levels for TB and TB/HIV activities.
- At the national level, continue to provide technical assistance for review of national plans, guidelines, policies and tools for TB/HIV activities.
Thank you for taking the time to join us today for this film premier. I hope you enjoy the story and the music featured in the film, and I hope you listen to the message – so that you can better understand TB, a potentially deadly, but imminently treatable disease.