One million lives can be saved between now and the end of 2015 by preventing and treating Tuberculosis among people living with HIV

A publication outlining the new epidemiological model - Time to act: Save a million lives by 2015 - Prevent and treat tuberculosis among people living with HIV was launched on 6th June in New York as world leaders were convening for the UN High-Level meeting on AIDS. The new model, developed by the World Health Organization, the Stop TB Partnership and UNAIDS, shows it is possible to reduce dramatically HIV/AIDS deaths through TB prevention and treatment. In 2009 almost one in four deaths among people living with HIV were due to TB. The majority of these deaths could have been avoided as TB is both curable and preventable. The model estimates that through the scaled-up implementation of WHO-recommended collaborative TB/HIV activities, it is possible to save a million lives by the end of 2015. In 2010 a joint goal for 2015 was set by the Stop TB Partnership and UNAIDS to halve HIV related TB deaths, compared to 2004 levels. Based on the new model it has been agreed to aim to save a million lives. “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 UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé.

The document 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 cost of implementing all the elements needed to achieve this is estimated to come to around $790 million a year. Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the Stop TB Department of WHO said “In the past few years we have made encouraging progress in the fight against TB and also gained clear understanding of what needs to be done to prevent a million deaths from TB among people living with HIV by 2015. Now is the time to apply that knowledge and further intensify our efforts starting with bold leadership of national governments”. This was further echoed by  Dr Jorge Sampaio, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Stop TB and former President of Portugal, who made a strong appeal during the launch of the publication “There is 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. 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."

Link to the publication | Link to a fact sheet about the model