UN health agency scaling up measures to help those with both HIV

“TB/HIV is a deadly combination and needs to be tackled with an approach treating the whole person,” said Dr. Lee Jong-wook, WHO’s Director-General. “With effective treatment, TB can be cured, HIV managed and the health of millions of people preserved.”Dr. Peter Piot, the Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), agreed that TB is perhaps the most deadly opportunistic infection associated with AIDS. “By tackling TB and HIV together, we can have a significant impact on improving the quality of life of people infected with HIV, while also controlling TB and preventing new infections,” he said.The new programme will give critical support for “3 by 5”, the WHO plan to provide anti-retroviral (ARV) drug treatment to 3 million people living with AIDS by the end of 2005.A principal focus of the programme will be Africa, where 70 per cent of the world’s 14 million people who are co-infected live. Up to half of the continent’s people with HIV/AIDS develop TB and almost four out of five TB patients are HIV-infected, according to WHO.A key guideline will be to train health workers to increase voluntary HIV testing and counselling in TB programmes, with the aim of identifying and referring more than half a million TB patients who are also HIV-positive for ARV drug treatment in the next two years. In this way, TB programmes will help with HIV prevention, ARV distribution and patient care, WHO said.At the same time, the agency promised to add screening and testing for TB at HIV/AIDS service delivery points in regions of high HIV prevalence.By routinely screening and testing people with HIV/AIDS for TB, people without TB can be treated with prophylactic drugs that prevent the development of active tuberculosis and people with the disease can be cured, WHO said.

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