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News from the AIDS Conference -- Dying of TB

While much of the international AIDS community has focused on delivering life-saving antiretroviral drugs to people infected with HIV, it has overlooked another preventable killer: tuberculosis.
Just 1 percent of the people living with HIV/AIDS have been screened for TB, according to data from the World Health Organization.
The findings, presented at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City this week, are important because half of people who contract HIV also develop TB and without immediate treatment, will die.
"One of the great tragedies of this epidemic is that people who are living with HIV after hard-fought battles for access to antiretroviral treatment, go on to die needlessly from TB," said Jim Yong Kim, a Harvard University professor and former head of the WHO's HIV/AIDS department.
In early 2004, the WHO announced plans to expand projects that jointly tackle both AIDS and TB, with special attention on screening for both. But since then, "dual testing remains virtually non-existent," says the group Advocacy to Control TB Internationally, known as Action.
Since 2004, nearly 1 million Africans infected with HIV -- including many who were receiving antiretroviral therapy -- have died from TB, according to Action. The group is pressing governments and major international donors such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria to require universal TB testing in any AIDS program they fund.
The increased availability of antiretrovirals, known as ARVs, "may have left some people with the false impression that ARVs provide immunity from TB, which they do not," said Michel Sidibe, deputy executive director of UNAIDS, the United Nations agency. "We're facing a preventable plague inside a devastating epidemic."
By Ceci Connolly

By Frances Stead Sellers  |  August 8, 2008; 3:35 PM ET
Categories:  AIDS  
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