WHO To Expand Collaboration Between National HIV, TB Programs To Reduce Number of Coinfection Cases
The World Health Organization on Wednesday announced plans to fight the growing problem of HIV and tuberculosis coinfection, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 1/20). HIV weakens the immune system, making HIV-positive people more susceptible to TB. If active TB goes untreated in HIV-positive people, most will die within one year, according to the Wall Street Journal. HIV/TB coinfection is a problem especially in Africa, where 70% of the world's coinfected people live. As many as half of all HIV-positive people in Africa have TB, and up to 80% of TB patients have HIV. The new plan will encourage an expansion of voluntary HIV testing and counseling in TB programs in the hopes of identifying more than 500,000 coinfected people for antiretroviral treatment by 2006 (Naik, Wall Street Journal, 1/21). In addition, the plan encourages the development of TB screening and testing programs at HIV clinics and service points (AFP/Yahoo! News, 1/20). WHO plans to provide primarily technical assistance to countries participating in the program but hopes to persuade bilateral donors and groups such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to fund the treatments needed for the initiative.
The new plan is part of WHO's larger goal of treating three million HIV-positive people with antiretroviral drugs by 2005 (Wall Street Journal, 1/21). WHO Director-General Jong-Wook Lee in September during a U.N. General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS announced WHO's commitment to the "three-by-five" plan and declared the lack of access to antiretroviral drugs a global health emergency. WHO's $5.5 billion plan calls for training 100,000 health care workers, refocusing 10,000 clinics in developing countries to treat HIV/AIDS and using some common antiretroviral drug combinations. However, the plan does not provide the drugs or subsidize their cost (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/8/03). The launch of the new HIV/TB initiative, titled the "Interim Policy on Collaborative TB/HIV Activities," coincides with the fourth round call for grant proposals from the Global Fund. The WHO initiative will "enhance" proposals that address HIV/TB coinfection, according to a WHO release (WHO release, 1/21).