Leadership (Nigeria) (11.28.12)
The United Nations recently launched an initiative to reduce the TB deaths of HIV-infected persons by half in Nigeria, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe as part of an effort to increase the global fight against HIV/TB co-infection. The agreement was made between the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Stop TB Partnership to achieve the 2015 goal of reducing TB deaths in HIV patients by 50 percent—or the equivalent of 600,000 lives.
Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS director, said that it is possible to stop people from dying of HIV/TB co-infection by the integration and simplification of HIV/TB services. Member states agreed at the 2011 UN High-Level meeting on AIDS on halving TB/HIV deaths by 2015, which is also the target year of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. Preventative treatments would focus on the previously listed 10 countries, where three-quarters of TB/HIV fatalities occur. Dr. Lucica Ditiu, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, stated that through a new agreement, UNAIDS and the Stop TB Partnership have committed to an agenda of action, engaging new partners and assisting the most heavily affected countries to integrate HIV/TB services and create action plans.
In spite of greater access to antiretroviral therapy for persons with HIV and a 13 percent reduction in TB-associated HIV deaths over the past two years, TB remains the leading cause of death in HIV patients. People with HIV are 20 to 30 times more likely to develop active TB than those without HIV, and pregnant women and children are especially at risk. In 2011, 25 percent of AIDS-related deaths were caused by HIV-associated TB disease. Sidibé urged the scaling up of services in affected countries through concerted joint efforts. He noted that the 2015 goals are clear and that they can be made to happen.