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Thursday 24th May 2018

HIV, TB rip through Africa

5th November 2007

HIV and tuberculosis have exploded into a deadly combined epidemic which is spreading through sub-Saharan African countries at an alarming rate, a new report says.


Health systems in those countries, some of the poorest in the world, are unable to diagnose, treat or contain it because of a lack of relevant medical research.

The report, issued by the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research, said that approximately one-third of the world's 40 million people with HIV/AIDS are co-infected with TB, and the mortality rate for HIV-TB co-infection is five-fold higher than that for tuberculosis alone.

This "largely unnoticed" collision of the two global epidemics has been made yet more urgent by the surging rates of multi-drug resistant TB in some areas with high HIV prevalence.

Veronica Miller, coauthor of the report and director of the Forum, said the eye of the storm was now in sub-Saharan Africa, where half of new TB cases were coinfections with HIV.

The Forum is a public-private partnership comprised of researchers, patient advocates, and government and industry representatives.

Unlike bird flu, Miller said, the global threat of HIV/TB is not hypothetical, but had already arrived. However, the the science and coordination needed to stop it were utterly insufficient, she said.

The combined infection of HIV-TB now affects a third of the 40 million people living with HIV around the world.

It was first reported 23 years ago, and kills 90% of people who contract it within months of their acquiring the secondary TB infection.

About a third of the global population is infected by TB, but the disease remains in a latent form, held at bay by the body's immune system, unless the person's immune system is wiped out by HIV, that is.

According to the report, the HIV epidemic has completely destabilized TB control in regions with high rates of HIV. For example, in one community of 13,000 people outside of Cape Town, South Africa, the TB patient caseload increased six-fold between 1996 and 2004, from 30 to 180 per year.

Rates of TB in this community are over 150-fold higher than the national rates in many high-income countries.


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