World Tuberculosis Day joint message from the Directors of WHO HIV and Stop TB Departments

The theme of this year’s World TB Day 2012 is "Stop TB in my lifetime" with a special focus on childhood TB. It is very clear we need to take full advantage of each and every approach and intervention available to us in order to achieve this inspiring goal.

One of the critical areas is the HIV/TB combined epidemics. HIV is not only a major risk factor for tuberculosis, but children with HIV are at markedly increased risk of TB. Just a month ago, we launched the updated WHO policy on collaborative TB/HIV activities. We estimate that nearly 1 million lives have been saved between 2005-2010 thanks to implementation of TB/HIV collaborative policies in countries. Thus, the importance of implementing the new Policy, and in particular, in addressing the needs of most-at-risk and key populations, such as women and children must be emphasized. Delivery of the Three I’s for HIV/TB (including isoniazid preventive treatment, infection control for TB, and intensified case finding for TB) and earlier antiretroviral treatment for eligible people, including women and children, can dramatically reduce the number of new cases, saving millions of lives in the coming years.

On this World TB Day 2012, the detrimental effects of HIV and TB on women and children need to be reiterated:

  • Pregnant women living with HIV are ten times more likely to develop active TB than those without HIV.
  • TB is a leading infectious cause of death during pregnancy and delivery, particularly among women living with HIV.
  • TB during pregnancy increases the risk that babies will be born prematurely or with a low birth weight.
  • TB in a pregnant woman living with HIV more than doubles the risk of vertical transmission of HIV to the unborn child.
  • Most children get TB from a family member.
  • In 2010, there were some 10 million children globally who were orphans because of TB among their parents.
  • TB is both preventable and curable in women and children, regardless of HIV status. The Three I’s for HIV/TB and earlier ART significantly reduce the risk of TB.

Today the Journal of Infectious Diseases has published a scientific review on the magnitude and challenges of maternal and childhood TB in high TB and HIV burden settings together with related recommendations for policy, programming and research. It provides further in-depth evidence on the scope of the problem, as well as opportunities we have at hand to overcome the challenges. Recommended actions are also outlined in the brochure: No More Crying, No More Dying. Towards Zero TB Deaths in Children which was released on Wednesday.

We would like to thank you and congratulate you - all our stakeholders - for the past success in addressing HIV/TB through collaboration. And we urge you to make every effort this year to ensure that collaborative TB/HIV activities become a firm and integral part of all HIV and TB services including, prevention of mother-to-child transmission programmes, prenatal care, family planning and immunization services. This would be an incredible step forward towards getting to zero TB deaths in children.