PM Browne to address the UN General Assembly tomorrow 

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne is expected to address the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly tomorrow afternoon.
He is heading an Antigua and Barbuda delegation that includes Health and Environment Minister, Molwyn Joseph, and Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Trade Minister, E. P. Chet Greene along with Senior Ambassador Sir Ramez Hadeed and Ambassador Gilbert Boustany.
The 73rd session of the annual meeting began on Monday and the prime minister participated yesterday in a high-level meeting on the fight against tuberculosis.
“United to end tuberculosis: an urgent global response to a global epidemic”, was the theme of the meeting, which was intended to intensify the thrust towards ending the worldwide tuberculosis epidemic, one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
While Antigua and Barbuda has been successful in eliminating the incidence of tuberculosis infection within the twin island state and is in the forefront within the Caribbean and the Americas in eliminating the disease, a recent Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO)/ World Health Organisation (WHO) report stresses that although deaths from tuberculosis (TB) fell in the Americas by 37.5 percent between 2000 and 2015, and new cases dropped by 24 percent, there is need to accelerate the rate of decline for the Region to be able to end the disease.
The caution is timely as in the case of Antigua and Barbuda in which there has been two confirmed cases recorded in 2018 (this year), both infants with one of them arriving with the disease from the U.S.
The WHO report notes that more than 50,000 people in the Region – almost half of them under 15 years of age – do not know they have the disease and have not been treated.
At the meeting, the prime minister was expected to stress the importance of accelerating efforts to eliminate TB by reaching all affected people with prevention and care.
The Americas has the lowest percentage of new TB cases in the world (3 percent of the total) and is the first region with a real opportunity to eliminate the disease as a public health problem. According to the report, 15 countries,12 of them from the Caribbean, have low TB incidence (less than 10 cases per 100,000 people) and are on the road to elimination.
 However, although preventable and curable, tuberculosis is currently the Region’s most lethal infectious disease and its persistence is largely due to the serious social and economic inequities in the Americas. Since 2015, deaths fell on average by 2.5 percent per year and new cases dropped by 1.6 percent, but they need to fall at a rate of 12 percent and 8 percent per year, respectively, to achieve the intermediate targets for 2020 and continue to decline until 2030. 
In 2017, WHO estimated 282,000 new cases of TB in the Americas, 11 percent of which were in people living with HIV. It was also reported that 87 percent of cases were located in 10 countries, with Brazil, Peru and Mexico reporting just over half the total. 
WHO also estimated that 24,000 people died last year from tuberculosis in the Region, with 6,000 of them coinfected with HIV.
Stressing that the downward trend in new cases and deaths must proceed more swiftly to meet elimination targets, PAHO Director, Carissa F. Etienne, said: “We need to expand access to diagnosis and quality treatment for everyone who needs it and to address social determinants that affect health and favour transmission of the disease.”
Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is also a serious threat, with an estimated 11,000 people in the Region currently infected by this form of the disease. Among those who develop it,
the cure rate is just 56 percent.
The report also recommends that to accelerate progress in eliminating TB, especially in the countries with the greatest disease burden, there should be increased monitoring of contacts with people who have TB, especially children under 15 years of age; stepping up implementation of simpler treatment regimens and introducing drugs for children; reaching the most vulnerable populations and addressing social determinants, and ensuring that plans are financed with a country’s own resources rather than depending on external funds.

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