This World AIDS Day there are hopeful signs to report. Last week the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) announced that there has been a 13% reduction in TB/HIV deaths in the last two years.
This is encouraging, but we are far from where we should be. TB remains the leading cause of death among people living with HIV. At the current rate of progress, and without tremendously accelerated efforts, the goal of reducing deaths from TB among people living with HIV 50% by 2015 - agreed to by UNAIDS and the Stop TB Partnership - will not be achieved.
We know what should be done. Ideally, people should be offered "one stop service" for HIV and TB care. Every country can move in that direction through a tailored approach. TB programmes need to provide HIV testing; and HIV programmes should do TB screening and needed follow-up. And there should be active outreach into the population to offer both HIV testing and TB screening.
I congratulate the many countries that are providing HIV testing in the context of their TB programmes. In 2011, more than two-thirds of TB patients in the African Region had a documented HIV test result.
However, I must challenge many of those same countries to urgently scale up their efforts to make TB services (screening, prevention, diagnosis, treatment) available through their HIV programmes. Today not nearly enough people living with HIV are receiving these services.
I appeal to the entire HIV community to make this issue your own. You have called for zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. You have also called for an AIDS-free generation via the new global AIDS blueprint. These aspirations will never be achieved without confronting TB and reaching with equal zeal for zero TB deaths and zero new TB infections.
I call on all people in the TB and HIV communities to integrate their activism - just as we must integrate TB/HIV care.