Bobby Ramakant CNS (Citizen News Service)
Unless we empty 'latent TB pool' and cut chain of TB transmission, how will we end TB and end AIDS?
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Every case of active tuberculosis (TB) disease comes from an individual with latent TB infection. And every new case of latent TB infection is a sign of failing infection control, as someone with active TB disease transmitted the bacteria to an uninfected person. Quarter of world's population has latent TB. TB continues to be the most common opportunistic infection among people living with HIV, and also, the lead cause of death. With TB being preventable, treatable and curable, we need to do a lot more to make this slogan a reality.
In addition to boosting infection control, scientific evidence is piling up that TB preventive therapy should be a standard of care to protect people (with latent TB) from active TB disease.
Hundreds of participants who attended the TB HIV Symposium organized by Stop TB Partnership with partners, before the 10th IAS Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2019) opened in Mexico, echoed a strong Call To Action to reach out to 6 million people living with HIV with TB preventive treatment.
People living with HIV but dying of TB
According to the last WHO Global TB Report, 300,000 people living with HIV died of TB in 2017. "TB is the biggest killer among people living with HIV. We cannot reduce the mortality among people living with HIV without addressing TB. It is very important for people who are working with HIV national programmes and partners to increasingly focus their attention on TB. In the past TB-HIV interface area has been dominated by significant work from the TB programme, and I must say, not so much from the HIV programme. But now things are changing" said Dr Suvanand Sahu, Deputy Executive Director, Stop TB Partnership.
Benefits of TB preventive TB therapy have been known since 60 years. Till recently, there has been very limited scale up, even in the target group such as people living with HIV. In September 2018 at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, a special UN High Level Meeting (UNHLM) on TB was attended by heads and representatives of several countries globally. Promises made at this UNHLM gives hope for stronger response towards ending TB.
"We have a UNHLM target of putting 30 million people on TB preventive treatment, which includes specific goal of putting 6 million people living with HIV (PLHIV) on TB preventive therapy. PLHIV come in regular contact with HIV programmes to receive their anti-retroviral therapy so it is very important for HIV programmes to prioritise provision of TB preventive therapy. TB preventive therapy significantly reduces the risk of getting active TB disease. It is a standard of care as every person who is offered HIV care should also be offered TB preventive therapy (after ruling out active TB disease and any other contraindications). We have lagged behind in this aspect of TB-HIV collaborative activities that are needed and now there are great opportunities with the UNHLM target to make progress in this area" said Dr Sahu in an interview with CNS (Citizen News Service, www.citizen-news.org).
"TB preventive therapy is not the only activity that involves TB and HIV programmes to collaborate and work synergistically, as there are many other areas too. It is very important that right at the start of the HIV conference we get reminded that TB is the biggest killer among people living with HIV and there are tools, interventions, that are available that needs to be scaled up to prevent people living with HIV from dying from TB" emphasized Dr Sahu.