The Director’s Corner

The Director’s Corner

TB-HIV – a conflagration deeply intertwined

A message from José Luis Castro for TB2016, Durban, South Africa

Between 16-17 July, the International AIDS Society (IAS) will convene the very first tuberculosis (TB) summit, immediately prior to its annual conference, AIDS2016.

Named TB2016, this event will bring together global health professionals, TB specialists and researchers to share knowledge and galvanise the required action needed to address TB-HIV.

For many reasons, I am delighted that The Union will play a major part in this significant inaugural event. AIDS2016 is the world’s largest conference on any global public health issue, attracting upwards of 20,000 delegates and 1,000 media correspondents, all dedicated to spreading the word about the impact of HIV/AIDS. But the need for an equal level of attention on the global TB threat – and its consequences for HIV - has never been so critical.

TB and HIV are an interconnected conflagration. The statistics are shocking and speak for themselves. TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, accounting for 390,000 deaths from HIV-associated TB in 2014. HIV weakens the immune system, therefore a person living with HIV is 26 times more likely to develop active TB than someone who is HIV-negative. Of the 1.2 million people who died from HIV in 2014, one in three deaths resulted from TB-HIV co-infection. At the same time, 25 percent of all TB deaths were HIV-associated.

It is essential that we address the TB-HIV co-epidemic at every opportunity. To this end, The Union opened its Department of HIV in 2002 with the aim of developing models and best practices to help reduce the burden of this dual epidemic of TB and HIV. Since 2005, WHO estimates that 5.8 million lives have been saved by such interventions. Yet, in 2014, only half of TB patients had a documented HIV test result—the first step in initiating treatment and care for TB-HIV co-infection.

TB2016 is an opportunity to advocate for better diagnosis, treatment and care. It is an opportunity to communicate best practice to the TB and HIV communities and aid greater understanding of this dual threat. Learnings and connections made in Durban will be advanced further at the 47th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Liverpool in October. Because the debate is not an annual event – it is a continual process of exchanging views and sharing knowledge. By working together, we can create sustainable solutions – that is how we will address TB-HIV in a meaningful way.

José Luis Castro
Executive Director
The Union

More information and details on The Union’s involvement at TB2016 and AIDS2016, in Durban South Africa, available here