March 24, 2009

Concerted Efforts Needed To Fight Dual TB, HIV Globally

Disease experts claim that efforts to fight HIV and tuberculosis must be paired in order to be most effective.

In recognition of World TB Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) released new findings to show that co-infection of TB among HIV patients is nearly twice as big as previously considered.

In 2007, there were at least 1.37 million cases of HIV-positive TB "” or nearly 15 percent of the total incident cases. That figure doubles that of the previous estimates, WHO said.

"A global health catastrophe is unfolding," said Gerald Friedland, a professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale University School of Medicine and a leading co-infection expert.

HIV makes a patient become more vulnerable to diseases like TB, which accounts for more deaths among people with HIV than any other disease, However, experts found that only 1 percent of people with HIV had a TB screen.

There were more than 500,000 cases of MDR-TB in 2007, the WHO reported. And by the end of 2008, at least 55 countries and territories had identified at least one case of extensively drug-resistant TB.

Cases of TB in Sub-Saharan Africa have tripled since the 1990s due to HIV. In some countries, as many as 80 percent of TB patients are co-infected with HIV.

"These findings point to an urgent need to find, prevent and treat TB in people living with HIV and to test for HIV in all patients with TB," said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO.

"Countries can only do that through stronger collaborative programs and stronger health systems that address both diseases."

According to BBC Health, UK Coalition to Stop TB has urged Gordon Brown and other world leaders taking part in the upcoming G2 summit to follow through with funding pledges for TB intervention.

It estimates that an investment of $14 billion would reduce TB deaths in people living with HIV by 80-90 percent.

"Now is the time to scale-up financing for effective interventions for the prevention, treatment and care of TB worldwide," Dr Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, told BBC Health.


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