Will invest US$5.1 million toward improving diagnosis and preventing thousands of deaths in the region

Washington, D.C., 31 October 2012 (PAHO/WHO) — The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has tripled its financial support for the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Regional Tuberculosis Program, which seeks to prevent 15,000 deaths from tuberculosis in Latin America and the Caribbean over the next five years and reduce the incidence of this disease.

This increases a previous US$5 million USAID/PAHO agreement, signed in November 2011 to strengthen programs for tuberculosis, maternal and neonatal health, and health systems in the region over the course of a 3-year period, to a total of US$8.9 million.

Most of the funds provided by this expansion are earmarked for the tuberculosis program: US$5.1 million will now be invested in the program, up from an originally expected investment of US$1.5 million.

"The burden of tuberculosis in the Region is still very high, particularly in vulnerable populations and in the presence of multidrug-resistant TB bacilli. This increase in financial contributions to the PAHO/WHO Strategic Plan will enable us to strengthen our actions and ensure the continuity and expansion of this program. USAID/PAHO collaboration in public health, both at the regional level and in bilateral projects in key countries, has a rich history of many successful outcomes. This substantial increase in USAID resources is most welcome and is being accepted with a high level of commitment to ensure its successful use," said PAHO Director, Dr. Mirta Roses Periago.

More than 200,000 people still contract tuberculosis and nearly 20,000 die of this disease every year in the Americas. Even so, this is the result of major achievements, as the number of cases of tuberculosis has declined 60% and deaths from TB have been reduced by two-thirds in the Region since 1990.

Nevertheless, several challenges remain: the burden of tuberculosis varies substantially between countries and is borne most heavily by the most vulnerable populations, such as ethnic minorities, those living in the outskirts of large cities, mobile and migrant populations, and those who have difficulties securing timely, continuous access to medical care. Other challenges include coinfection with tuberculosis and HIV, which tends to affect younger populations, and drug-resistant tuberculosis. Furthermore, the Region is facing a scenario of rapid population aging, with an attendant increase in the burden of chronic diseases such as diabetes and other associated risk factors that can influence transmission of TB, including alcoholism, smoking, and substance dependence.

This additional USAID support will help PAHO/WHO in its goal of closing the gaps for tuberculosis control in the Region, funding interventions meant to:

  • control tuberculosis in the major cities of Latin America and the Caribbean, with a comprehensive approach consistent with the needs of the most vulnerable communities, including the social determinants of health, by means of intersectoral actions (including the education, labor, urban development, and health sectors); and
  • preserve existing achievements in tuberculosis prevention and treatment and strengthen actions in countries through South—South and North—South cooperation.

"Having attained a significant reduction in tuberculosis in the Americas, including achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, the challenge now is to reach the most vulnerable populations, especially in large cities. That is the aim of this support agreement between USAID and PAHO/WHO", stressed Dr. Marcos Espinal, the Area Manager for Health Surveillance and Disease Prevention and Control at PAHO. "This support from USAID will enable us to continue to work toward the dream of a continent free of tuberculosis", he stated.

USAID has been a longstanding collaborator of PAHO/WHO, particularly in the global "Stop TB Strategy", with an emphasis on human resources education, the strengthening of laboratory networks, and the prevention and control of TB, including multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), and TB/HIV coinfection.

USAID is the international cooperation agency of the United States of America. It seeks to promote the progress of societies through collaboration with other countries, and its objectives include the improvement of health systems to promote development.

This year, PAHO celebrates 110 years as the world's oldest international public health organization. It works with all countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).


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