TB must be tackled in fight against AIDS

By Shaoni Bhattacharya, Bangkok Tuberculosis must be beaten in order to win the fight against AIDS, leaders urged on Thursday. “We cannot win the battle against AIDS if we do not also fight TB,” said Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa. “TB is too often a death sentence for people with AIDS”. Speaking at the XV International AIDS conference in Bangkok, Thailand, the Mandela added: “The world has made defeating AIDS a top priority. This is a blessing. But TB remains ignored.” Of the 38 million people living with HIV around the world, 14 million also have TB. About 70% of those with both infections live in Africa. TB causes at least 11 per cent, and possibly up to half, of all AIDS deaths, according to data from UNAIDS and the Stop TB Partnership, making it the leading killer of people with AIDS. But while TB can be cured using powerful antibiotics, Stop TB says too few people with HIV have access to effective TB treatment. Mandela spoke at a briefing to announce a $45 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to boost research into duel infection with HIV and TB. He revealed how he contracted TB during his long imprisonment on Robben Island during South Africa’s apartheid years, and how he was completely cured after treatment. “We’ve seen a devastating resurgence of TB in developing countries hit hard by HIV/AIDS, and to control it, it is essential that creative new strategies are identified and quickly put into practice,” said Helen Gayle, director of the Gates Foundation’s AIDS and TB programme. The grant will be used by CREATE (Consortium to Respond Effectively to the AIDS-TB Epidemic) for three projects among schools in Zambia, gold miners in South Africa and HIV-positive patients in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The goal in Zambia is to explore ways of helping people recognise active TB cases; in South Africa and Brazil researchers will test the cost and effectiveness of a treatment programme called isoniazid preventive therapy. TB, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis is more likely to hit people with HIV because of their weakened immune systems. Infection with TB does not necessarily cause illness, it can remain in a latent form. About a third of the world’s population, two billion people, carry TB but never actually develop the disease. However, people infected with HIV and TB are 50 times more likely to develop active TB than those without HIV. And contracting TB can accelerate an HIV-positive patient’s progress towards full-blown AIDS. More on these topics:
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