New report says AIDS and TB are deadly combo

Anthony Cuesta | August 10, 2006

CAPE TOWN — More people are getting tuberculosis because of AIDS and more die of AIDS because of TB, yet doctors fail to recognize the respiratory disease in AIDS patients and governments do little about it, according to a report released on Tuesday.

Other topics like avian flu get immediate attention while 2 million people die every year of tuberculosis, and 9 million become infected, according to the report from the Open Society Institute.

Together, TB and AIDS are causing a "double plague," Stephen Lewis, the United Nations Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa told Reuters in a telephone briefing.

"Governments and the international community have got to realize they have on their hands two simultaneous and interrelated catastrophes," Lewis said. "We must confront both together. We need more resources. We need diagnostics. We need better drugs."

According to Reuters, Lewis and staffers who wrote the report said they hope to use the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto, which opens on Sunday, to build interest in the issue.

When people become infected with TB and AIDS it is almost "always an irreversible formula, cause for death," Lewis said.

"TB is in fact the most common cause of death for people living with AIDS," he added. "Ninety-nine percent of those infections and deaths are in the developing world."

TB can be cured with several months of treatment with antibiotics.

Ezio Santos Filho, a lawyer and AIDS and TB activist in Brazil, told Reuters he is a living example of the problem.

He has been infected with the AIDS virus since 1985 and became infected with tuberculosis in 1992 when working with Brazilian TB patients.

"When people have AIDS it is difficult to diagnose TB," Filho said.

"Normally they don't have all the symptoms, all the typical characteristics that people without AIDS would have. People cough less and people have less sputum when they have AIDS."

The report said in Tanzania, for example, only 47 percent of TB cases are detected. Undiagnosed patients spread TB.

"And for people living with HIV/AIDS, even a short delay in accessing TB treatment can be fatal," the report said.

Olayide Akanni of Journalists Against AIDS in Nigeria, who worked on the report, told Reuters that activists, public health authorities and other experts have all failed to address the issue.

"There is no coordination between TB and HIV programs," she said. "In most programs, TB programs go underfunded and neglected." – Issued by Gay Link Content

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