Tuesday, September 21, 2004

HIV/AIDS Fuelling TB Crisis

HIV/AIDS Fuels Tuberculosis Crisis - UN
By Anthony Mitchell
Associated Press Writer

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- The spread of HIV/AIDS is fueling a massive tuberculosis crisis that could see one billion people infected in the next 20 years, the U.N. warned Monday. A staggering 35 million people could also die of TB in that time if its growth continues unchecked, the World Health Organization said at the start of a two-day conference in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The conference is seeking to promote joint treatment of the two leading killer diseases in the world. AIDS kills 8,000 people worldwide a day while another 5,000 die from TB. TB is the most common infection among - and the leading killer of - people living with HIV/AIDS. TB infects an estimated 8.7 million people a year and kills 2 million a year. It is spread by airborne bacteria that settle into the lungs and cause long-term infection. Many people who are infected do not become ill themselves but can spread it. Of the estimated 25 million Africans now living with HIV, about eight million also harbor the bacillus that causes TB. Each year, 5-10 percent of these eight million co-infected people develop active TB and up to four million will develop the disease at some point in their lives, the WHO said. The "deadly interaction" of TB and HIV threatens to evolve into a global public health crisis and called for urgent action to stop the co-epidemic, said Mario Raviglione, head of the WHO fight against TB. The danger is compounded by the appearance of drug-resistant TB strains. Earlier Monday, a senior US health official called on Ethiopia's political leaders to go for public tests for HIV in a bid to help end the stigma affecting those living with the virus. Julie Gerberding, director of the US Center for Disease Control, was speaking during a three-day visit highlighting projects funded under U.S. President George W. Bush's US$15 billion initiative to combat HIV/AIDS. "Having a visible political leader getting an HIV test helps, there is no question about it," Gerberding said. "I would encourage all leaders to have an HIV test as I have done."

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