Assessing the state of integrated TB/HIV care
It has been 27 years since the first World AIDS Day. While HIV and TB treatment have steadily improved in the intervening years, far more needs to be done to integrate care for patients who are co-infected with both diseases.
On Friday, during the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health’s first plenary session in Cape Town, advocates, leaders, and a survivor of multidrug-resistant TB spoke on the need to address this critical issue in the fight against TB and HIV –especially here in Africa
The panel included Dr Mark Dybul, Executive Director of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; Dr Linda-Gail Bekker, President-Elect of International AIDS Society; and Dr Luis Loures, Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS and Assistant Secretary General of the UN; and Constance Manwa, a MDR-TB survivor from Zimbabwe.
Ms Manwa reported that she only learned she was living with HIV when she underwent routine tests after becoming pregnant. Her account of her experience did much to highlight the need for a newer and more holistic approach to treating TB and TB/HIV.
Meera Senthilingam, CNN-International TB correspondent, served as moderator for their discussion, which emphasized that TB is an inherently ‘social disease’, in that it heavily affects the urban poor, migratory communities and, particularly, those living with HIV. Approaching TB from this perspective is a critical component to ending it and is also a cornerstone of the new Global Plan to End TB.
The consensus of the panel was that we must work with and throughout the TB, HIV, and NCD communities in order to eradicate these diseases; and we must work beyond the clinic and invest in social treatment to stamp out TB.
If we continue to build silos in our health communities – if we continue to address these diseases as inherently different – we will never reach our shared goal of elimination.