IDSA’s Global Health Policy Center hosted a media call today–World TB Day–to connect reporters with leading TB & HIV physician-scientists. The subject, of course, was the World Health Organization’s just-released report on TB, which includes alarming new data on co-infection.
The two doctors on the call for IDSA were Richard Chaisson, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Tuberculosis Research, and Carol Dukes Hamilton, MD, a professor of medicine at Duke University. Hamilton is co-chair of the Global Center’s Scientific Advisory Committee and Chaisson is a member of that panel. IDSA co-sponsored the call with RESULTS Educational Fund and the Consortium to Respond Effectively to the AIDS/TB Epidemic (CREATE).
Hamilton and Chaisson walked reporters through the new WHO figures, which show the co-infection crisis is twice as bad as previously estimated. In 2007, there were at least 1.37 million cases of HIV-positive TB—or nearly 15 percent of the total incident cases. That’s double previous WHO estimates.
Hamilton and Chaisson also called for forceful U.S. leadership to tackle the twin epidemics, highlighting in particular the need for increased research funding, as scientists and doctors scramble to respond to drug-resistant TB.
Hamilton, who is also a senior director of research at Family Health International, noted that the CDC’s budget for TB research has suffered in recent years, even as the global threat of TB grows. Chaisson talked about the need for new infection control measures and increased funding so that vital anti-TB programs, such as those run by PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, can do a better job screening people with HIV for TB.
On that last point, RESULTS issued a report today—another major focus of the media call—concluding that HIV donor groups, including PEPFAR, are not doing enough to ensure that HIV/AIDS programs are screening and treating patients for TB.
TB is the No. 1 killer of people with HIV. And as Chaisson noted on the call, because of the co-infection scourge, we are now successfully treating people for HIV/AIDS, only to see them die of TB.
Indeed, the WHO report said that only 2 percent of persons living with HIV in developing countries are being screened for TB. An estimated one-fourth of all TB deaths are related to HIV. Once someone is infected with HIV, their risk of TB infection immediately doubles. And without treatment, active TB in those with HIV proves fatal within months.
Here’s a link to the WHO report.
And here’s a link to the RESULTS report.