The World Health Organization today announced a plan to expand collaboration between national tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS
programs to curb the growing pandemic of TB/HIV co-infection, focusing mainly on Africa, where 70 percent of the world's 14 million co-infected people live.
TB/HIV is a deadly combination and needs to be tackled with an approach treating the whole person, said WHO Director General Lee Jong-wook. With effective treatment, TB can be cured, HIV managed, and the health of millions of people preserved.
A key element of the so-called Interim Policy on Collaborative TB/HIV Activities will be to rapidly expand voluntary HIV testing and counselling in TB programs, with the aim of identifying and referring more than half a million TB patients who are HIV positive for antiretroviral treatment in the next two years. With additional training for health workers, TB programs will also assist in HIV prevention, antiretroviral distribution and patient care.
At the same time, TB case-finding will be intensified in high-HIV prevalence settings by introducing screening and testing for tuberculosis into HIV/AIDS service delivery points.
Evidence has shown that the uptake of HIV testing by TB patients is high, so mainstreaming HIV testing and counselling
into TB programs will identify many more candidates for ARV treatment, said Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO's Stop TB
Department. We also know that ARVs reduce the development of TB in people with HIV, in some cases by up to 80 percent. So promoting and expanding a collaborative approach makes perfect sense. (WHO release, Jan. 21)(Source: UNWire,January 21, 2004)