Recent reports by UNAIDS, WHO and the Stop TB Foundation show that preventing TB among People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) can save up to a million lives. According to UNAIDS, one in four people living with HIV/AIDS dies of TB and this could be avoided because TB can be cured. They have set a goal to reduce the number of TB deaths by half by 2015. It is almost impossible for me to imagine how horrible the combination of TB and HIV is yet many people have to live with this reality. The Stop TB Foundation report shows that even though the poor and disadvantaged are at high risk of getting TB individuals with good incomes living with HIV are also vulnerable to TB.
This report is very timely considering the fact that the UN High Level meeting on HIV/AIDS takes place from the 8th- 10th of June, 2011. The major problem however is inadequate/insufficient action. It is not exactly breaking news that TB is curable, there has been inadequate action in providing sufficient TB medication to PLWHA especially in Africa. This report serves as a wake up call for leaders on nations and organizations involved in providing care and treatment to PLWHA. As a result a new model has been launched and it calls for:
1. Testing for HIV/AIDS should be provided every 3 years in places where the disease is prevalent
2. Active treatment for PLWHA who have TB and preventive treatment for PLWHA who do not have TB
3. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) should be started early because it would prevent TB since the ART would boost the immune system.
4. PLWHA who are diagnosed with active TB should start ART regardless of the status of their immune system.
This does seem workable but also means that national governments should not relent efforts put into campaigns that call for regular HIV/AIDS tests because as the report shows if ART is started early TB could be avoided.
It is 30 years into the AIDS epidemic and the international community is doing what they can- Every one has a role to play in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.