Last week, to mark the International Aid’s Society Conference, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Whoopi Goldberg posted a message on the Aids 2012 Conference Blog about TB-HIV co-infection. You can read Whoopi’s message in full here.
TB, or tuberculosis, is the biggest killer of people living with HIV. TB is an infectious disease which travels through spores in the air and is most likely to affect those with a weakened immune system, hence the high prevalence of the disease in those living with HIV.
However, TB is curable and preventable but it’s an often neglected disease which can be difficult to diagnose.
Whoopi explains in her blog how we need to pay more attention to the dual epidemic of TB-HIV in order to properly tackle both diseases and save millions of lives:
“I have heard a lot about the tragedy of AIDS orphans – but not enough about TB orphans. In 2009 there were some 10 million children in the world who had been orphaned by the death of a parent because of TB. TB is most typically a “family” problem. The vast majority of kids who become ill with TB catch it from a close family member before their TB has been diagnosed or treatment has begun. When you realize that, it’s easy to see that you can’t protect children against TB without addressing it within the family and wider community.
“What we need to do now is scale up methods that are already available. In countries heavily affected by HIV and TB, everyone should be offered testing for both diseases. That is not happening in most places now. Any person living with HIV who is diagnosed with TB needs prompt, life-saving TB treatment. If they don’t have TB, they should get life-saving preventive treatment with the drug isoniazid, so they won’t get TB. Needless to say ART should be started early – which also helps prevent TB.
“We also need programmes focused on maternal and child health to start paying attention to the risk of TB. What better place to start the integration of TB and HIV care for women and children than at the same clinics where they receive family planning services, prenatal care, immunizations and other services?
“By following these simple steps, millions of lives could be saved. But we could achieve even more with simpler diagnostic tests, more child-friendly drugs and a new vaccine. Research into these tools must be increased fast.
“The theme of AIDS 2012 is ‘Turning the Tide Together’. I truly hope everyone attending the conference—or reading this blog post – will recognize that to end AIDS we must join together to tackle TB and HIV as one disease. We must act now – for the sake of children and their families everywhere.”
There is a phrase we often in our advocacy work on TB: ‘TB anywhere is TB everywhere’. With an infectious disease such as TB, it’s crucial to ensure that quick, accurate and easy diagnosis is available to everyone and that once diagnosed, people have access to prompt and effective treatment.
RESULTS UK, as a partner of the ACTION Project, will continue to advocate for better diagnosis, treatment and recognition of TB and TB-HIV co-infection until families are no longer torn apart by the devastating disease that is tuberculosis.