WHO: Intensified action needed to halt a quarter of a million TB/HIV deaths a year of people living with AIDS
"Joint TB And HIV Interventions Can Save Lives And Must Be Accelerated" says International Aids Society President
16 August 2006 | Toronto - Leading HIV experts today called on the global HIV community to intensify collaboration on tuberculosis control, to prevent the deaths of a quarter of a million people living with HIV (PLHIV) a year.
At the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, HIV Director Dr Kevin De Cock and TB/HIV Coordinator Dr Paul Nunn, both from WHO, were joined by Dr Helene Gayle, the International AIDS Society President . Together, they urged HIV health workers to target and scale-up joint activities for tuberculosis and HIV.
"TB prevention, diagnostic and treatment services must become core functions of all HIV services," said Dr De Cock. "People living with HIV are more vulnerable to TB, even if they're on antiretroviral therapy. TB can be treated and cured so most of these deaths are absolutely preventable. HIV policy-makers, health ministers and health workers all have a vital role in making sure that deaths from TB are reduced."
"Joint TB and HIV interventions can save lives and must be accelerated," said Dr Gayle. "More than a third of all people infected with HIV are also infected with the tuberculosis bacillus, which causes the deaths of a quarter of a million people living with HIV, every year."
Today's call was backed by initial findings from a Brazil-based study, showing that TB can be prevented in those with HIV, carried out by CREATE (Consortium to Respond Effectively to the HIV TB Epidemic). "This is important research which shows that TB preventive treatment is successful in reducing TB cases in PLHIV, even for those who are already taking life-saving antiretroviral drugs." said Dr Richard Chaisson, Principal Investigator of the study. He also emphasized that research into new TB drugs, diagnostics and vaccines appropriate for PLHIV, and operational studies and effective models to deliver the services to those who need them, are urgently needed.
"We have the essential know-how and policy guidance to address TB among PLHIV and progress has been documented. However, the progress has been slow, compared to the scale of the problem," said Dr Paul Nunn of WHO's Stop TB Department.
"In countries dually affected by TB and HIV these interventions should be rapidly scaled up and implemented through effective collaboration between HIV and TB control programmes, and general health services. Two years ago, Nelson Mandela warned the world that ‘We can't fight AIDS unless we do much more to fight TB.’
"Mr Mandela's warning on HIV and TB still needs to be translated into large scale action. Commitments made at the G8, UN and African Union summits must be experienced by the actual communities most affected by the dual epidemics, particularly in Africa where HIV-related TB deaths are the highest in the world To do this, sustainable funding is critical."
Also adding her voice to the call for action was TB/HIV activist, Lucy Chesire from Kenya. She urged HIV patients to press their governments for more investment on TB control, to ensure joint activities for tuberculosis and HIV are prioritised and implemented.
Globally, TB is second only to HIV as an infectious killer of adults, causing nearly nine million cases of active TB disease and two million deaths every year. In countries with a high prevalence of TB, HIV programmes must scale up TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment. These and other recommended measures are outlined in WHO's Policy on Collaborative TB/HIV Activities.
Recent high level commitments on TB/HIV include the July 2006 G8 summit where leaders supported the promotion of joint activities for TB and HIV; the UN General Assembly Special Session on AIDS in June 2006, which emphasized the need for accelerated scale-up of collaborative activities; and last year's African Heads of State meeting in Nigeria, which called on all African leaders to intensify action on TB.