US global health leaders open 20th Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board meeting

1 April 2011 - Washington DC - "Many of you around this table have been confronting TB for years. Being more successful will depend on taking bold actions and some risks, and introducing innovations, new ways of working and new technologies to achieve the outcomes we all seek." Yesterday, with these words Dr Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development expressed the spirit of the historic 20th Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board meeting, held in Washington one decade after the Partnership's founding.

At the opening ceremony, the other guest speakers, Dr Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health of the US Department of Health and Human Services, and Lois Quam, Executive Director of the Global Health Initiative at the US State Department, also expressed strong support for the global fight against TB and the role of the Stop TB Partnership. "I am grateful to you for your commitment to working together," Dr Koh told the assembled Board members and guests, adding that he believed it was critical to "seek targets that will motivate us for the future".

Lois Quam spoke of the longstanding commitment of the American people to global health. "Americans understand the problems faced around the world and can put themselves in the shoes of others," she said. "Our objective is to use American resources to build an enduring legacy." The Global Health Initiative, she explained, focuses on strengthening underlying health systems in countries and country ownership of health programmes. "We wish to see integration in health systems. We believe we can make strides and introduce efficiencies" she said.

Mr Keith Hansen, Director of Human Development for Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank; and Dr Marcos Espinal, former Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership and current Manager of Health Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control at the Pan American Health Association, were also guests at the opening ceremony.

Special guest Ambassador Eric Goosby, US Global AIDS Coordinator, US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), who led the session, "Responding to the TB/HIV Co-Epidemic", invigorated the room when he said: "It is time for TB in a way that it never has before." He said PEPFAR was fully committed to integration of TB/HIV services and moving to scale approaches to covering whole populations. He also made an impassioned call for the inclusion of civil society. "When there is no ongoing dialogue with civil society, we go off track," he said.

This was the first Coordinating Board to take place since the appointment of Dr Lucica Ditiu as Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership. The Board welcomed and congratulated her.

Discussions at the Board resulted in the way forward on: renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Stop TB Partnership and UNAIDS; improving technical assistance to countries through TB TEAM; and decentralizing and regionalizing the activities of the Green Light Committee (which assists countries in procuring and properly treating patients with second-line TB drugs).

The Global Drug Facility will move forward with reorganizing and streamlining its activities to improve its services, with the ultimate objective of better serving TB patients. The Board also agreed that the role of civil society should be strengthened and expanded.