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UNAIDS calls for urgency in TB diagnosis, treatment

by Haruna Gimba

By Zayamu Hassan

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), has called for urgency in the diagnosis and treatment of Tuberculosis (TB) patients in all countries of the world.

This, it said, was because TB related deaths among people living with HIV has increased for the first time after years of progressive decline.

In a statement to mark the 2022 World TB Day, the UNAIDS said it will continue to work with partners to reach the HIV/TB targets set for 2025, which include ensuring that 90 per cent of people living with HIV receive preventive treatment for TB and reducing TB-related deaths among people living with HIV by 80 per cent.

To make this happen, it said, will require the Global Fund to be fully funded and that investments be made in research and development, in expanding services as well as in adopting new and innovative strategies to reach everyone in need.

The UNAIDS explained that people living with HIV are 18 times more likely to develop TB disease.

According to the UNAIDS, although around 85 per cent of people who develop TB disease can be successfully treated, the treatment success rates for people living with HIV are much lower, at around 77 per cent.

This demonstrates the importance of scaling up prevention efforts as well as treatment for the two diseases.

“The increase in TB deaths among people living with HIV is alarming and demonstrates the fragility of pandemic progress. When COVID-19 hit, global attention on HIV and TB shifted as the world focused on tackling the new pandemic.

“This has meant lives needlessly lost and important targets missed for HIV, TB and other diseases. Urgent action and increased investments are needed to get us back on track,” says the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Winnie Byanyima.

The UNAIDS further called for urgent support in the area of essential health services for people affected by war, including services for TB and HIV in Ukraine and its neighbouring countries.

 “In this time of crisis, there is an opportunity to build a pandemic-resilient future if leaders work together to tackle the inequalities that endanger us all.

“While AIDS, TB and COVID-19 each spread in unique ways, we are watching as each is driven by social and economic inequality that leaves some communities more vulnerable and the whole world at risk. We can address those inequalities, or we can let these pandemics continue, the power is in our hands, Ms Byanyima said.

The UNAIDS lamented that TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, accounting for around one third of AIDS-related deaths globally.

It noted that coordinated and scaled up efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat the two diseases had, however, resulted in a 68 per cent decline in TB deaths among people living with HIV between 2006 and 2019.

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