Free Anti-Tuberculosis Medicines Should be Made Widely Available to HIV-Positive People, WHO Report Says
The World Health Organization yesterday at the International AIDS Society's 2nd Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment in Paris released a report calling for free anti-tuberculosis drugs and improved health care for HIV-positive people, Reuters reports. About 33% of the 42 million HIV-positive people worldwide also have TB, and 90% of them will die within a few months without treatment, which typically costs about $10 per person (Sithole, Reuters, 7/15). HIV weakens the immune system, making patients more susceptible to TB co-infection (Naik, Wall Street Journal, 7/16). The region hardest hit by HIV-TB co-infection is sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV has contributed to a 6% rise in the annual number of TB cases. Of an estimated 30 million people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, 70% of them do not have access to TB drugs, according to the report. In addition, an even greater crisis could be emerging in India, where 4.5 million people have TB -- the highest TB caseload in the world -- and where 1.8 million new HIV cases are reported each year. In addition, the report said that WHO funding for a plan to stop the spread of TB by 2005 is $3.8 billion short of the necessary $9.1 billion (Reuters, 7/15). Mario Raviglione of WHO and Stop TB said that China, Indonesia and Nigeria need to strengthen their approach to TB prevention and treatment. WHO has been pushing countries to adopt the agency's TB treatment guidelines, "Directly Observed Treatment, Shortcourse," which include recommendations for diagnosis, treatment and tracking of cases (Wall Street Journal, 7/16). Raviglione added, "We need to increase our efforts to address the deadly synergy between [HIV and TB], each of which is fueling the other's impact" (Reuters, 7/15).
WHO "departed from the usually sedate style" of its reports in order to "step up" warnings about the interaction of HIV and TB, according to the Wall Street Journal (Wall Street Journal, 7/16). The publication, prepared for WHO by editors and photographers from Colors magazine, includes "disturbing" pictures of people affected by TB in order to depict the "enormous challenges faced every day" by health care workers, according to Renzo di Renzo, editor-in-chief of Colors (WHO release, 7/15). Colors is published by United Colors of Benetton, the Italian fashion house that sometimes uses graphic images in its ad campaigns (Wall Street Journal, 7/16).
A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of the press conference held to release the report is available online.