New UN initiative aims to stop tuberculosis deaths among people with HIV

22 July 2010

The United Nations and the Stop TB Partnership have agreed to step up joint efforts to halve by 2015 the number of people living with HIV who die from tuberculosis, which accounts for a quarter of all deaths among those living with the virus.

The memorandum of understanding signed today in Vienna between the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Stop TB Partnership – a leading public-private global health initiative – also aims to provide life-saving antiretroviral treatment for all TB patients living with HIV.

“We already have the tools to keep people living with HIV from dying of TB,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé.

“We must join our TB partners to promote an evidence and human rights-based approach to tackling TB and HIV. Together we can virtually eliminate TB-related AIDS deaths.”

The two organizations will press government health programmes to reach everyone in need of care for TB and HIV by integrating the services that provide diagnosis and treatment for both conditions.

They will also push for more resources to achieve this goal, and to galvanize civil society organizations, communities affected by TB and HIV and the private sector to form strong partnerships aimed at jointly addressing TB and HIV.

Stressing the needs of marginalized groups, they also called on world leaders to promote full access to HIV and TB services for women and girls, orphans, displaced persons, migrants, prisoners, men who have sex with men, people who use drugs and other vulnerable groups.

The leaders of the two organizations also plan to make at least two joint visits per year during 2010 and 2011 to countries heavily affected by TB and HIV and promote their new initiative during at least one international event per year.

Today’s agreement comes as UN agencies, government officials and health experts meet in Vienna for the global XVIII International AIDS Conference.

Also today at the conference, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) launched a toolkit on assessing needs for the prevention and treatment of HIV and TB in prisons, taking into account that many countries lack mechanisms to address such issues.

“With more than 30 million men, women and children worldwide spending time in detention each year, the barriers to fair and decent services must be removed,” the agency stated in a news release.

From the limited data available, it is evident that HIV, hepatitis C and TB rates in prisons are particularly high, and always higher than in the community at large, UNODC said, noting for example that the rate is up to 50 times higher in Mauritius. In addition, women in prisons are at higher risk than men.

UNODC pointed out that by using the toolkit, Governments may set more specific targets tailored to the needs of prisoners and prison staff.

“It is based on the premise that the incidence of HIV and other infectious diseases is not only higher among prisoners, but also easily spread to the population at large due to prisoners moving to and coming from the community,” said the agency.

The toolkit proposes comprehensive HIV care which should be made available to all prisoners in the form of prevention, voluntary counselling and testing, antiretroviral treatment, prevention and treatment of opportunistic infections, as well as support.

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