This year, on World AIDS day, Vital Strategies joins the global call for an end to the negative impact of HIV. Globally, we have made progress in reducing the stigma and isolation experienced by those living with HIV, an important step to bring an end to the transmission of HIV. But there are still many issues we must address.
One crucial need is to integrate services for HIV and Tuberculosis (TB). TB is the cause of one-third of the 1.5 million AIDS deaths each year and continues to kill an estimated 1.7 million people and infect another 10 million each year.
Recently, in a blog I co-wrote with Linda-Gail Becker, President of the International AIDS society, we outlined why it is necessary for the AIDS and TB communities to come together. Combining our efforts, and taking ownership in the fight against TB, will have a tremendous impact on driving down TB infections and deaths.
The AIDS response has taught us how to respond to seemingly intractable health crises. We know we have to insist on the accountability of national governments and other stakeholders to generate concrete results for people living with TB/HIV co-infection. Global targets must be aligned with national targets, and national budgets and resources need to be steered toward the most heavily infected communities.
These lessons apply equally to HIV and TB, yet our efforts are not often coordinated. There have only been limited efforts to even monitor the degree of HIV/TB service integration. This monitoring is necessary, but we must take the crucial step of integrating, and focusing on the implementation of policies with tangible outcomes.
The fight against HIV made significant headway when they began implementing an approach that adapts services to the needs of individuals, decongests clinics, empowers communities and avoids wasting unnecessary health resources. These processes and interventions live up to the “nothing about us without us” approach, placing the person living with HIV at the center.
Integrating TB and HIV services improves outcomes, decreasing late diagnosis of conditions, improving prognosis and considerably decreasing TB and HIV transmission. But to make this happen, stronger political support is needed. TB/HIV co-infection, and the broader TB epidemic, are global health emergencies. Real action is needed from global leaders.
No person, regardless of where they are born, should be denied access to inexpensive, life-saving treatment for a curable disease.
On World AIDS Day, we look forward to moving these efforts forward, to end the stigma, isolation and transmission of TB and HIV.