Ahead of this week’s high-level United Nations meeting on AIDS, the Stop TB Partnership today unveiled five simple steps that could prevent tuberculosis, which is responsible for one in four AIDS-related deaths.
Close to 400,000 people die of HIV-related TB each year, according to the TB Partnership, which points out that the measures presented today could treat and prevent tuberculosis that could save the lives of one million people with HIV/AIDS worldwide by 2015.
“There has been a surge in awareness about the deadly TB epidemic among people living with HIV, but insufficient action,” said Jorge Sampaio, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Stop TB and former president of Portugal.
“Now new scientific work has shown that we can prevent a million deaths among people living with HIV by end 2015 by providing integrated HIV and TB care,” he added.
The five steps are contained in a new scientific model – “Time to act: Save a million lives by 2015 – Prevent and treat tuberculosis among people living with HIV” – that was launched at UN Headquarters two days before the start of a high-level meeting to review the global response to the AIDS epidemic.
The steps include providing testing for HIV and TB every three years in places where both diseases are prevalent, as well as prompt TB treatment to every person living with HIV with active TB – or treatment to prevent TB.
Other steps are ensuring that HIV and TB treatment are accessible and of good quality; that antiretroviral therapy is started early, which will help prevent TB; and that people who are HIV-positive and diagnosed with active TB start antiretroviral therapy regardless of the status of their immune systems.
In 2010 the Stop TB Partnership and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) set the joint goal of reducing by half the number of deaths among people living with HIV, compared to 2004 levels, between 2011 and end 2015.
With the new model, they have agreed to aim for the goal of preventing one million TB deaths among HIV-positive people – at a cost of $790 million per year.
“Halving TB deaths in people living with HIV by 2015 is possible and is within our reach,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “We could save up to a million lives by 2015 and bring us one step closer to the UNAIDS vision of Zero AIDS deaths!”
According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), there were an estimated 9.4 million new TB cases worldwide in 2009, of which an estimated 1.1 million were among people living with HIV.
In an effort to raise awareness of these two diseases, the agency last week appointed Chinese singer Peng Liyuan as Goodwill Ambassador for Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. In her new role, Ms. Peng will participate in a series of high-profile events to promote concerted action on two diseases that together were responsible for the deaths of more than 3.5 million people in 2009.