Twenty years ago, the average person in Swaziland could expect to live 60 years. Today, the ravages of the tuberculosis and HIV epidemics have dropped that number to 31 years, according to a new report “Fighting a dual epidemic” released today by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection among adults, and more than 80 percent of TB patients are co-infected with HIV, according to the report. MSF and the Ministry of Health of Swaziland are working together to combat the co-epidemic, addressing challenges such as a shortage of health care workers and adequate diagnostic facilities, and patients failing to adhere to treatment, often due to cost.
The report defines the action needed to respond to these challenges and others presented by the co-epidemics, which constitute a major health emergency not just in Swaziland, but across most of sub-Saharan Africa. The report focuses on the strides made combating these diseases in the past two and a half years, and the considerable impact made utilizing strategies such as decentralizing services, task shifting among health care workers, and improved infection control measures.