TB rates still too high according to the WHO
Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of the world’s deadliest communicable diseases states the latest Global Tuberculosis Report by the World Health Organization. In 2013, an estimated 9 million people were infected with TB with 1.5 million dying from the disease. Of which, 360 000 people were co-infected with TB and HIV.
TB is slowly declining each year, however given that most deaths from TB are preventable, the death toll from this disease remains too high. The number of TB deaths among people co-infected with HIV has decreased the past decade – from 540 000 in 2004, to 360 000 in 2013. However, in order to continue this decline, activities including early case detection, antiretroviral treatment (ART), preventive therapies need to be scaled-up.
One of the key activities to reduce the number of TB deaths in HIV co-infected people is early case detection through the provision of HIV testing to all TB patients and routine TB screening for people on ART. However, in 2013, only 48 percent of TB patient were tested for HIV with only half of the estimated number of people being co-infected with HIV and TB identified. WHO guidelines, which recommend ART for all TB patients testing positive for HIV within the first eight weeks of TB treatment released in 2012 saw an increase in ART uptake from 60 percent in 2012 to 70 percent in 2013. Although this increase is significant, less than a third of the estimated number of people living with TB and HIV are on ART.
The reports highlights the need to scale up collaborative TB and HIV activities and move away from the current horizontal approach. Only this will make the international target of reducing the number of HIV associated TB deaths by 50 percent a reality.