The following post is by The Global Center’s Christine Lubinski, reporting from the 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna.
Michel Sidibe, Director of UNAIDS, and Marcos Espinal, Director of the STOP TB Partnership, signed a memorandum of understanding at a TB/HIV symposium today, pledging to join forces to reduce the human toll of HIV/TB co-infection. The compact includes a commitment to raise new resources, advocate for new diagnostic and treatment tools, and ensure human rights protections for those infected with both HIV and tuberculosis.
They and other speakers, including Special UN Envoy for Tuberculosis Jorge Sampaio, and Global Fund Director Michel Kazatchkine, lamented the slow uptake of TB screening of HIV patients in HIV clinical settings. Only 4 percent of persons living with HIV were screened for tuberculosis in 2008. Sidibe noted that some of the barriers in getting TB services to HIV-infected are a result of persons trying to protect their own turf at the expense of patients. He insisted that people need to be placed at the center of the response and that the effort needs to move from a “co-morbidity response to a community response.”
Marcos Espinal, who will leave the Stop TB partnership shortly, called on the HIV community in the room and at the conference to seize “this golden moment to push for 100 percent TB screening of persons with HIV.” Espinal also expressed grave concern about the funding problems facing the Global Fund, which is the largest funder of TB services in developing countries. Kazatchkine moderated the session and told the audience that the Global Fund is the largest and only major funder of multidrug resistant (MDR)-TB services, currently paying for 36,000 MDR patients to be treated, a small fraction of those in need.