HIV/AIDS Epidemic Poses ‘Serious Threat’ To Eradication of Tuberculosis, Kofi Annan Says on World TB Day
Because people suffering from HIV/AIDS are more vulnerable to opportunistic infections, the global AIDS epidemic poses a "serious threat" to stemming the spread of tuberculosis, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement in observance of World TB Day, which is today. Tuberculosis kills approximately two million people each year, 98% of whom live in developing countries, and the disease is the leading cause of death among curable infectious diseases (Annan release, 3/19). The Stop TB Partnership, a not-for-profit association of governments, scientists, nongovernmental organizations, donors and other TB advocates that organizes World TB Day, set a list of goals for stemming the spread of the disease. These goals include the adaptation of the DOTS treatment method to address the impact of HIV on the effect and spread of TB (Stop TB Partnership fact sheet, March 2003). DOTS, which stands for directly observed treatment, short-course, is the World Health Organization-recommended strategy for TB treatment and prevention (WHO, What is DOTS?, 8/30/2002). HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who serves as chair of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said that DOTS "is the most effective means of administering treatment, curing patients, reducing transmission, and preventing the development of drug resistance," adding, "I want to dramatically increase the percentage of integrated HIV/TB projects among the total projects approved [by the fund] in the future" (Global Fund release, 3/24). The Ethiopian Ministry of Health's TB and Leprosy Control Program in a press release noted the connection between HIV/AIDS and TB, stating that HIV weakens the body's defense system, making people more likely to acquire or develop TB. TB can also accelerate the progression of HIV in a person who has both infections by taxing their immune system (Ethiopian TB and Leprosy Control Program release, 3/24).
Stemming HIV-TB Co-Infections
The world should be "humbled and moved to action" because nearly 60 years after a cure for TB was discovered, it continues to kill two million people each year, José Zuniga, president and CEO of the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, writes in IAPAC Monthly. The "grim efficiency" with which HIV and TB work together should further encourage action in the international community to fight the diseases. Of people with healthy immune systems infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacillus that causes TB, only one in 10 people will develop the disease over the course of their lifetime; in people whose immune systems have been compromised by HIV, one in 10 people will develop TB each year; and in those who have developed AIDS, one in every two or three will develop TB each year, Zuniga states. "Given the way these two diseases work in synergy, it is imperative that we devise strategies that allow us to fight them simultaneously," Zuniga says, adding that such efforts should address the root causes of the diseases, including "inadequate nutrition, underdeveloped medical infrastructure [and] insufficient housing" (Zuniga, IAPAC Monthly, March 2003).