Neglect of HIV/TB Coinfection ‘Undermining’ Gains Against HIV, U.N. Officials Say at Conference
Failure to adequately address HIV/tuberculosis coinfection is "undermining" recent gains against HIV/AIDS, United Nations officials said at the first HIV/TB Global Leaders Forum at U.N. headquarters in New York, the New York Times reports.
According to the officials, TB is the leading cause of death among HIV-positive people in Africa and a leading cause of death worldwide (Altman, New York Times, 6/10). U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "This is shocking: no one should die of TB, a preventable and curable disease, in this prosperous and technology-rich 21st century" (Xinhuanet, 6/9).
Jorge Sampaio, U.N. special envoy for TB who convened the meeting, called for an integrated approach to treat HIV/TB coinfection. According to a report recently released by Ban, HIV/AIDS treatment access in low- and middle-income countries increased by 42% last year to reach three million people, about 30% of those in need. However, Sampaio said, "TB undermines investment in lifesaving drug treatment for people who are living with HIV" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 6/9).
According to Mario Raviglione, director of the World Health Organization's Stop TB Department, at least 700,000 cases of HIV/TB coinfection develop annually. He added that this year, about 230,000 people living with HIV/AIDS will die from TB. The number includes those who received antiretrovirals but not treatment to cure drug-sensitive TB (New York Times, 6/10). Ban said, "Despite the fact that HIV and TB frequently occur in the same one person, we continue to deal with the two diseases separately" (Xinhuanet, 6/9). However, Raviglione cited some progress, including an increase in the number of TB patients tested for HIV in Kenya, Malawi and Rwanda.
The officials called for strengthening health infrastructures in many countries to improve detection of HIV/TB coinfection. They also said that more research is needed because standard tools and drugs are difficult to use in low-income countries. The officials added that an investment of $19 billion through 2014 could decrease deaths by 80%. Sampaio said the "call for action" released at the meeting represents "the next inevitable step if we really want to control these two epidemics, because if we don't do it, the economic, social and human rights situation will be much worse than it is today" (New York Times, 6/10).
The Call for Action is available online.