Lack of TB Screening for PLHA: “Malpractice on the grandest scale”

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Joanne Carter (far right), Executive Director of RESULTS

Vienna — “Today, only 4.1 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS are screened for TB,” said RESULTS Executive Director Joanne Carter during a press conference Wednesday at IAS 2010.  “And this is despite TB being the most likely infection to kill [HIV infected persons.]”

“Failure to provide this screening is malpractice on the grandest scale,” she said, adding that this intervention is a basic and potentially life-saving standard of care for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA).

The RESULTS project Action to Control TB Internationally (ACTION) released a report card at the conference, which displays current global levels of TB screening among PLHA, and highlights the extent to which HIV/AIDS programs in the 20 countries most affected by TB/HIV are failing to screen PLHA for TB. For example, the report card shows South Africa had the highest number of deaths of PLHA from TB (more than 93,000) in 2007, and only 6 percent of PLHA were screened for TB.

Dr. Anthony Harries, Senior Advisor at the International Union Against TB and Lung Disease, outlined the three things that need to happen to improve TB screening: screening has to happen every time PLHA come to a treatment facility, it’s not just a one time affair; screening has to happen at every treatment center and it has to be simple; and health facilities need to be safe, clean environments.

“Active outreach is cost effective,” Harries said, adding that they are investigating using mobile vans to expand TB screening to rural areas without adequate health facilities in the countries most affected by TB.

Thabile Dlamini, Deputy General Secretary for the Treatment Action Campaign, said integration of services is one important component to ensuring screening happens. “Some patients are still going to different care sites to get care for individual diseases – sites that are far from each other and are costly for people to get to,” she said. Dlamini buried her brother the Saturday before she left to attend the IAS Conference. He was HIV infected and died from TB.

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