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World Aids day 2011: Want to get to zero? Deal with TB!

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Yet another World AIDS Day is looming ahead and it’s time to reinforce our commitment to ‘Get to Zero’. Jojanneke Nieuwenhuis, a regular now on JATB writes on this importance of dealing with the dual infections of HIV and TB if we need to achieve this goal of ‘Getting to Zero’. JATB is honoured to feature her.

A giant condom will be ‘wrapped’ around the Dutch Munt Tower in Amsterdam this week. It’s probably one of the more striking activities that will mark World Aids Day. Meetings, film-viewings, theatre plays, articles, brochures and many other happenings will call upon people to join the fight against HIV and Aids. To effectively fight Aids though, we need to also fight tuberculosis.

‘Getting to zero’ is this year’s theme for World Aids Day. Getting to zero, backed by a United Nations campaign that will run until 2015, means zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths; a bold and important aspiration. However, to get to zero AIDS-related deaths, we need to realise that one out of every four people living with HIV/Aids will die of tuberculosis. Worldwide, TB is the third most important killer of women, the second deadliest infectious disease and the leading cause of death among people with HIV-infection.

HIV/Aids and TB are so deeply connected that they are often described as a ‘dual epidemic’. Each disease speeds up the progress of the other; HIV infection is the strongest risk factor for turning latent tuberculosis into active disease, while TB-bacteria accelerate the progress of AIDS infection in the patient. Getting to zero Aids-related death means having to deal with tuberculosis too.

People living with HIV need to be often and properly screened for tuberculosis. They need to receive preventive treatment where necessary and they need to be treated fast and effectively in case of active disease. According to a global plan called ‘Time to act’, published by WHO, UNAIDS and the Stop TB Partnership, a million lives can be saved between now and 2015 by more effectively dealing with TB/HIV co-infection.

Still, scientific modelling shows that tuberculosis will not be eliminated without new, more effective vaccines. Vaccines that are safe for HIV-infected children and that provide better protection against pulmonary TB. Over the past years, scientists have made tremendous progress in the development of these vaccines. We now need to call upon politicians, decision makers, industries and donors to provide them with all the support they need to deliver these vaccines and eliminate tuberculosis.

Jojanneke Nieuwenhuis
Associate Communications and Advocacy Relations
TuBerculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI)

Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

November 30, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Posted in TB and Media

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