The Kochon Prize is awarded annually to individuals and organisations that have made a significant contribution to combatting TB. The prize was established in 2006 in honour of the late Chong-Kun Lee, founder and Chairperson of the Chong Kun Dang Pharmaceutical Corporation and Kochon Foundation in Korea.
Lee was committed throughout his career to improving access to low-cost lifesaving antibiotics and anti-TB drugs, the Department of Health said in a statement.
In accepting the awards, one of which he shared with a UK MP, Motsoaledi said he was deeply humbled to be considered for the prestigious Kochon Prize.
“I wish to thank the Chairperson and members of the Kochon Foundation for this honour, which I accept on behalf of everyone who has worked tirelessly to decrease the number of new TB infections and deaths as we work towards the elimination of TB as a public health threat globally,” Motsoaledi said in his acceptance speech.
“I know that this may sound clichéd, but the Kochon Prize for 2018 is for all of us, and acknowledges our passion, determination and hard work that brought us this far and, if sustained, will take us over the finish line.”
The Minister said political leaders should take the roles they play in society – both at home and globally – seriously.
“True leaders must be at the centre of challenges that face the citizens they represent. No other battle today desperately requires advocacy and guidance by world leaders than the fight against TB.”
He added that a lot more work needed to be done to achieve the milestone of ending TB by 2030, as well as finding the 40 million people infected with TB and providing them with life-saving treatment.
Motsoaledi also explained that TB does not follow the same response elicited by outbreaks such as Ebola, but that the disease also constitutes a serious threat to global health security.
“While the global response to the Ebola outbreak was what we needed, and we salute the world for that, I have to ask why TB, the infectious disease that causes the most mortality, does not elicit the same response,” said Motsoaledi.
“In the year during which we had 11 000 deaths from Ebola, there were 1,5 million deaths from TB.
“We know that every citizen on this planet did hear about Ebola and was very worried about what this means to the well-being of the world. But TB never even made a bleep on the radar screen. This is what needs to change. And our calling for a high-level meeting was to lead to this big change.”
In closing, the Minister said that without political noise, “which I was asked to make when I was appointed as the chair of the Stop TB Partnership board and which the HIV community has been able to generate, I am convinced we will not eliminate TB”.
“So, I am asking that all of us make noise until we are heard!”
Motsoaledi received a second prize alongside Nick Hebert, a UK MP, in their capacities as co-chairs of the Global TB Caucus of MPs from all over the world.