SAARC Tuberculosis Centre was set up in Nepal after the decision of The Heads of the State or Governments of the Member Countries of SAARC at their Fifth Summit held at Male from 22-23 November 1990. Accordingly and upon formulation of rules and regulations, it has been functioning since 1994. Since its inception, the Centre has taken the challenge of combating the threats of Tuberculosis in the region. Seeing its performance and importance, its mandate was revised by Thirty-first Session of the Standing Committee of SAARC,( 9-10 November,2005) and a decision was taken to rename the STC as SAARC Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Centre(STAC). Since then, it is dealing with both TB and HIV/AIDS in the SAARC Region.
As one of the Regional Centers of SAARC, the Centre has been working with the vision to support and guide SAARC member states to make the region free of TB and HIV/AIDS by coordinating National Tuberculosis Control Programmes (NTPs) and National HIV/AIDS Control Programmes (NACPs) of the Member States. The Centre has developed and launched the revised SAARC Regional Strategies on; HIV/AIDS (2018-2023), Advocacy, Communication & Social Mobilization (ACSM) for TB and HIV/AIDS (2018-2023), Elimination of Tuberculosis (2018-2023) and Regional Strategic Plan on Cross Border, Migration & Health towards Region free of AIDS and TB by 2030 (2018-2023).These strategies are being updated and revised keeping in view the redefining of TB and HIV/AIDS Programmes in the region by incorporating latest guidelines and national strategic plans for ending TB and HIV/AIDS developed by the Member States in the region.
The priority areas of functioning of the Centre are: policy & strategies, human resource development, researches & surveys, regional level awareness & advocacy, networking with collaborating partners and operationalization of SAARC Supranational Reference Laboratory for TB and HIV/AIDS, sharing of knowledge, technical documents, best practices and information through its impactful activities. The Centre’s activities are recommended by the Governing Boards and approved by the Programming Committees of SAARC.
End TB strategy of WHO is being implemented with good results in NTPs of the member states. In order to achieve early End TB goals, the Governments of Bhutan, India and Maldives have set their targets before the global deadline. The Governments of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri-Lanka have also fixed the targets in line the Global target of END TB by 2030. The COVID 19 Pandemic has become a threat and a challenge for all national Health Programmes and has impacted the goal and targets determined under the National Strategic Plans in general and TB and HIV/AIDS programmes in particular. The STAC has supported some projects to study the impact of COVID 19 on the TB and HIV/AIDS programmes in the country. These studies will provide insight for further initiatives and corrective actions to be taken at the national and regional levels.
With voluntary contributions from the Governments of Bangladesh, India and Nepal, the SAARC Regional Reference Laboratory for TB and HIV/AIDS is going to become operational very soon. The aim of this laboratory is to promote scientific research, to build up skilled workforce by timely and relevant trainings, quality assurance of various diagnostic technologies of SAARC Member States laboratories and to build up an organism bank for future endeavor.
I would like to sincerely thank and appreciate the support and cooperation provided by the Managers of National TB Programmes and National HIV/AIDS programmes, Governing Board Members as well as Ministries of Health and Foreign/External Affairs of SAARC Member States, SAARC Secretariat and collaborating partners. I strongly believe that the cooperation and support will continue for future activities and initiatives of the Centre.
Finally, I will be grateful for your valuable guidance, suggestions and feedback to achieve our desired goals.
Ms. Yeshoda Aryal