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HIV and tuberculosis in Africa must be treated together

The World Health Organization and UNAIDS have issued a statement after a meeting of international health experts in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, calling for wider access to tuberculosis (TB) treatment that includes testing for HIV and antiretroviral (ARV) therapy for HIV infection when needed. This could save the lives of 500,000 Africans living with HIV every year, the statement says.

People infected with HIV can be treated for TB just as successfully as people who are not infected with HIV. Currently, national programs in Africa to treat TB are treating less than half of HIV-infected people who also have TB. Also, few TB patients are offered HIV testing and even fewer receive ARV treatment. “If we jointly tackle TB and HIV, we can be much more effective in controlling both diseases,” said Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS. Nelson Mandela has also recently called for improved coordination between HIV and TB programs. At the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok in July he said “we are calling on the world to recognize that we can’t fight AIDS unless we do much more to fight TB as well.”