A new United Nations-led initiative aimed at reducing HIV deaths caused by tuberculosis (TB) by half was launched yesterday (November 27th) in Ethiopia.
Similar initiatives was also launched the same day in 9 other countries: Nigeria, India, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The initiative followed an agreement reached between the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Stop TB Partnership and it is part of a wider effort to accelerate the global fight against the HIV/Tuberculosis co-infection.
It aims to achieve the goal of reducing deaths from TB among HIV patients by 50 per cent in the respective countries by 2015. UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, in a press release said it's possible to stop people from dying of the deadly combination of HIV/TB co-infection "through integration and simplification of HIV and TB services". He said preventative treatments would focus on the 10 countries which currently bear three-quarters of all TB/HIV fatalities.
Mr. Sidibé urged the scaling up of services in affected countries through "concerted and joint efforts". The Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, Dr. Lucica Ditiu, noted that one in four AIDS-related deaths in these countries were caused by TB which is "preventable and curable at low cost". She said the new UNAIDS and the Stop TB Partnership agreement commits both parties to a strong action agenda. It confers special emphasis on the active engagement of new partners, and will focus on assisting the most heavily affected countries as they integrate their HIV and TB services and build action plans. Increased access to antiretroviral therapy for patients has resulted in a 13 per cent reduction in the numbers of TB-associated HIV deaths over the past two years.
However, TB, responsible for 25 per cent of all AIDS-related deaths in 2011 alone, continues to remain the leading cause of death among HIV patients.