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Thousands dying due to failure of coordination against fatal diseases
Thursday 21 October 2004
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AFRICA: Thousands dying due to failure of coordination against fatal diseases

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Patients at a TB clinic in Ethiopia.

ADDIS ABABA, 22 September (PLUSNEWS) - Half a million Africans die each year because of a failure to coordinate the fight against HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB), the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday. Jack Chow, WHO Assistant Director General, said joint treatment of the world's two leading killer diseases would save thousands of lives.

According to WHO, AIDS kills 8,000 people worldwide a day, while another 5,000 die from TB. When the two diseases combine, the effects are even more deadly. "These two epidemics are converging to create a combustible mix of two deadly diseases," Chow told journalists in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

"Regrettably the collective response against HIV and TB has fallen behind the curve," he said, adding that one third of the world's population is living with TB in their lungs. "Now we are seeing the rapid rise of HIV to be the driver for the proliferation of TB."

TB is the most common infection among - and leading killer of - people living with HIV/AIDS. Of the estimated 25 million Africans now living with HIV, about 8 million also harbour the bacillus that causes TB. Each year, 5 to 10 percent of these 8 million develop active TB, and up to 4 million will develop the disease at some point in their lives, WHO said.

WHO warned that the spread of HIV/AIDS was fuelling a massive TB crisis that could see 1 billion people infected in the next two decades. An estimated 35 million people could die of TB in that time if its growth continued unchecked, WHO said at a two-day anti-TB and HIV/AIDS conference in Addis Ababa.

The conference, attended by 150 experts, seeks to promote joint treatment of the two diseases. According to WHO, treating TB was one of the most cost effective ways of keeping HIV/AIDS patients alive, at just US $10 a time. Without it, HIV/AIDS patients with TB died within a matter of weeks, health officials said.

The African Union also backed the WHO initiative to improve coordination, and called for governments to "break down the walls" between the treatments for the two diseases. Grace Kalimugogo, a health expert with the pan-African body, added that it was often poverty that lay at the heart of the HIV/AIDS and TB crisis, both of which were hampering the development of the continent.

WHO says $1.8 billion is needed to fight TB - which each year infects 8.7 million people and kills 2 million - but says it faces annual shortfalls of $300 million. "There has been total neglect in combating TB," Mario Raviglione, head of WHO's campaign against TB, said.

He said that traditionally HIV/AIDS and TB programmes had been kept apart, but now health chiefs realised they must be tackled together. He said that neglect was in large part due to the fact that TB - spread by airborne bacteria that settle in the lungs and cause long-term infection - had been eradicated in rich nations.


Recent AFRICA Reports
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 203, 15 October 2004,  15/Oct/04
Full impact of AIDS yet to be felt - UN Commission,  14/Oct/04
AIDS orphan village planned,  12/Oct/04
Experts explore rural impact of AIDS,  12/Oct/04
Millions lack access to ARVs - UN study,  12/Oct/04
VIH Internet
Sida Info Services
Le Fonds mondial de lutte contre le SIDA, la tuberculose et le paludisme
Le Réseau Afrique 2000

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