MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – While tuberculosis remains the leading killer of people with HIV, measures targeting the two diseases together remain neglected by HIV programs, leaving the bulk of efforts tackling co-infection to less-funded TB programs, according to a report released here today. The result: While ways to fight the two diseases together have been determined and adopted as policies, they are frequently neglected in practice, leaving barriers to treatment standing, and leading to preventable deaths, said presenters releasing From Rhetoric to Reality: An Analysis of Donor and Implementing Country Efforts to Scale Up the TB-HIV Response from the ACTION global health advocacy partnership.
“We are not seeing adequate action to do what we know works to create a patient-centered response that saves lives,” Joanne Carter of RESULTS Educational Fund, ACTION’s U.S. partner said. “Sound policies are important but without implementation and scale-up, they are meaningless.”
The report uses data to show that HIV programs have been “alarmingly weak” in their response to co-infection with not even two thirds offering at least one “TB-HIV collaborative activity.” Those activities are the substance of World Health Organization recommendations on addressing HIV and TB, diseases that fuel the impact of each other. They include determining the HIV prevalence of TB patients and determining the TB prevalence of people living with HIV, integrating HIV and TB services, and providing antiretroviral treatment for TB patients living with HIV.
“We can’t reach the end of AIIDS without an accompanying TB response,” said UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Luiz Loures, adding that his grandfather, a physician, died of tuberculosis. “Something is wrong here and we have to fix it.”