Remarks by Ambassador Kenneth I. Juster on the Launch of the Tuberculosis Pledge

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.  I am pleased to welcome you to Roosevelt House for the launch of the Corporate Tuberculosis Pledge.  We thank the American Chamber of Commerce in India and the Confederation of Indian Industry for your partnership in this effort.

We are especially pleased to be hosting an event that accelerates the Government of India’s bold initiative to eliminate TB by 2025.  The TB platform will recognize corporations for their commitment and contributions to ending TB, and link them with the resources they need to better plan and implement TB programs.  India’s Ministry of Labor and Employment, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, is scheduled to sign a new Workplace Policy Framework for TB in the coming weeks, which will create a shared understanding of how companies can contribute to control TB in the workplace.

The United States is proud to be working with the Indian government to bring the corporate sector and civil society together to seek to eradicate this devastating but curable disease.  Indian companies can play a key role in assuring a healthy India.  We ask all of you here today to get involved in the fight against tuberculosis through the TB pledge.

We are all aware of the devastating impact of tuberculosis.  India has the highest TB burden in the world, with 2.8 million new cases every year, including 147,000 multi-drug-resistant TB cases.  This is a severe health crisis.  TB kills one person in India every minute.  It causes unimaginable suffering for families and communities, pushing patients into debt and poverty, and making it most difficult for India to realize its full potential.  And yet, this is a curable disease.

To support the Government of India’s ambitious goal to eliminate TB, we need a united front across the public sector, the private sector, and civil society.  The private sector actually brings some special skills to this fight, including entrepreneurship and innovation.  The same skills that grow profits can help a parent avoid the tragedy of losing a child to TB or stop a family from sliding into poverty.  Through a commitment to end TB, you have the opportunity to improve the social well-being of your workforce, their families, the community, and, ultimately, India.

It is important to highlight that investing in the fight against TB also makes good business sense.  The cost of TB to the Indian economy is approximately $3 billion a year.  For individual companies, investing in TB leads to healthier workforces and reduced absenteeism.  In addition, it is an opportunity for companies to demonstrate their commitment to the social well-being of the communities in which they operate and enhance their standing with their various stakeholders.  In other words, investing in TB is also investing in your business.

Companies can implement programs in their workplace to raise awareness about TB, screen employees for TB, and support TB patients.  Some of the displays around here this evening illustrate the commitment of several companies that are already investing corporate social responsibility resources in TB.  The corporate TB Pledge, which we are launching this evening, recognizes individual companies for their investments to end TB, and also creates a broader corporate voice to encourage new members to join this fight.

I want to thank those of you who have already committed to the Corporate TB Pledge.  We hope that this event provides you with an opportunity to share with your colleagues the merits of joining this endeavor.  Tonight is an important step in our collective effort to reach a TB-free India.  Let’s continue to work together to end TB by 2025.

Thank you very much.