The challenge of tuberculosis cannot be successfully tackled unless special attention is paid to India's tuberculosis epidemic, a top American aid agency official has said as the US and India formed an alliance to combat the deadly disease that kills one person every minute in the country.
The 'USAID-India End TB Alliance' was announced on Wednesday by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator Mark Green at an event in New York in presence of Union Health Minister J P Nadda.
Green said the experts in the alliance will offer innovative approaches to combat tuberculosis in India.
Alliance members include industry and civil society leaders, academics, scientists, innovators, investors, and members of the diaspora.
Two alliance members - Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Director General of the World Health Organisation, and Blessina Kumar from the Global Coalition of TB Activists - were present during the announcement.
India accounts for 27 per cent of the world's TB cases, with 421,000 deaths per year, Green said, adding that "We cannot successfully tackle this great challenge unless we pay special attention to India's TB epidemic."
That's one person dying every minute, he added.
Referring to his visit to India in November, he said he met with a group of TB survivors and their families and learnt about the barriers to testing and treatment they face.
"I was especially moved by those who were initially deterred from seeking treatment because of stigma but persevered, and now those same people, mostly women, are working as patient advocates, supporting others who are also struggling with stigma," Green said.
"A major reason for hope in India is that Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has made an ambitious, but determined commitment to achieve a TB-free India by 2025," he said.
The USAID is making an initial USD 30 million commitment, subject to the approval of the US Congress, Green said.