Asian health officials warn TB must be tackled alongside HIV

Other News Materials 20 February 2008 14:27 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Health officials from nine Asian countries on Wednesday met to discuss ways of curbing the high and increasing toll of tuberculosis (TB) for people living with HIV/AIDS.

In conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO) the participants voted to implement measures including increasing the rates of HIV testing among TB patients, TB screening among HIV patients and early access to antiretroviral therapy.

"HIV infection triggers reactivation of latent TB, but to this day, new TB patients have insufficient access to HIV testing, resulting in the late diagnosis of HIV co-infection," Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said.

WHO statistics show people living with HIV who develop TB are 10 times more likely to die earlier than those who do not, and TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV worldwide.

TB is endemic to countries like Cambodia, which also has one of the highest rates of HIV and AIDS infection in the region, with one 2004 government study putting the TB infection rate at 64 percent.

"This contributes to very high case fatality rates of 25 to 50 percent among new TB patients," Omi said. "If antiretroviral therapy is not provided, up to half of TB patients infected with HIV die during the course of their TB treatment."

TB is a bacterial infection which is usually confined to the lungs of otherwise healthy people but can run rampant in those with an HIV co-infection, spreading to lymph nodes, kidneys and bones.

Countries participating at the meeting were Cambodia, China, Fiji, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Vietnam.