One million lives can be saved between now and the end of 2015 by preventing and treating tuberculosis among people living with HIV
6 June 2011 - New York City - A new epidemiological model shows it is possible to sharply reduce AIDS deaths worldwide by preventing and treating tuberculosis (TB). At present one in four AIDS-related deaths is precipitated by TB; the vast majority of these could be averted, since TB is curable.
The model, which provides a clear blueprint for saving lives, was produced through a joint effort by the Stop TB Partnership, World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Building on well-established methods for preventing and treating HIV-associated TB that are recommended by WHO and UNAIDS, the model shows that by scaling up these approaches worldwide a million lives could be saved by the end of 2015.
"There has been a surge in awareness about the deadly TB epidemic among people living with HIV, but insufficient action. Now new scientific work has shown that we can prevent a million deaths among people living with HIV by end 2015 by providing integrated HIV and TB care," said Dr Jorge Sampaio, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Stop TB and former President of Portugal. "I call on the world's leaders to take up this challenge. It is time to take bold action. Not to do so would be an outrage."
A publication that outlines the new model - Time to act: Save a million lives by 2015 - Prevent and treat tuberculosis among people living with HIV - was launched this evening at United Nations Headquarters. It calls for the following actions:
- Testing for HIV and TB should be provided every three years in places where both diseases are prevalent.
- Prompt TB treatment needs to be provided to every person living with HIV with active TB - or else treatment to prevent TB.
- HIV and TB treatment must be accessible and of good quality so that people living with HIV are cured of TB.
- Antiretroviral therapy (ART) should be started early, which will help prevent TB, since people living with HIV are far less likely to become ill with and die of TB if they begin ART before their immune systems begin serious decline.
- People who are HIV-positive and diagnosed with active TB should start ART regardless of the status of their immune systems.
"The goal of saving one million lives from HIV and TB co-infection by 2015 is not only possible, it’s also one of the most clear cut methods of saving lives on such a massive scale. HIV and TB can be manageable diseases, but when acquired in unison, the combination is far deadlier - which is why it makes sense to formulate a collaborative response. From a business and a humanitarian perspective, working to meet this 2015 goal is so compelling, and I applaud the leadership of Stop TB," said Mr Ray Chambers, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria and UN MDG Advocate.
In 2010 the Stop TB Partnership and UNAIDS set the joint goal of reducing by half the number of deaths among people living with HIV, compared to 2004 levels, between 2011 and end 2015. With the new model, they have agreed to shoot for the one million mark.
"Halving TB deaths in people living with HIV by 2015 is possible and is within our reach. We could save up to a million lives by 2015 and bring us one step closer to the UNAIDS vision of Zero AIDS deaths!" said Mr Michel Sidibé, Executive Director, UNAIDS.
This week as global leaders gather for the UN High-Level Meeting on AIDS, activist groups are calling on their governments to fully adopt the TB/HIV plan. "Our message is clear and simple. If people living with HIV don't get tested and treated for TB, many of us will die from this disease, even though we are receiving life-saving anti-retroviral treatment. It's a terrible waste, because TB is curable," said Lucy Chesire, a leading international advocate on behalf of people affected by HIV-associated TB, which nearly took her life, even though she was taking ART.
The cost worldwide of all the elements needed to prevent one million TB deaths among HIV-positive people would come to about $790 million per year.
"The Global Fund welcomes the bold but achievable goal of saving one million lives from TB in HIV positive patients by the end of 2015", said Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. "As the largest external funder of TB control efforts in the world, we are committed to supporting countries to meet the target, and call on countries to submit strong applications which prioritize this goal. More integrated services to address TB in people with HIV are a crucial part of a sustainable AIDS response in the coming years".