A new report by the World Health Organization shows a close link between tuberculosis and HIV. The World Health Organization is launching its Global Tuberculosis Control Report on World TB Day.
The World Health Organization reports nearly 9.3 million people became ill with tuberculosis in 2007, of these new cases it says 1.4 million or 15 percent were linked to HIV.
The TB Control report finds one out of four TB deaths, or nearly one-half million deaths, is HIV related. That is twice as many as previously recognized.
WHO HIV/AIDS Department Director Kevin De Kock says the escalating number of TB deaths among people infected with HIV shows a need for a joint, well-coordinated response to the two epidemics.
He says the burden of HIV-TB is unequally distributed. "About 79 percent of all HIV-associated TB cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa - 79 percent and about 11 percent in Southeast Asia," said Dr. De Kock.
"Of the five countries in the world with the greatest number of new tuberculosis cases annually, two of them have generalized HIV epidemics. And, that is South Africa, a country with a large population and very high HIV prevalence rate and Nigeria," he added.
Dr. De Kock notes Nigeria has a lower prevalence of HIV than South Africa, but because of its very large population, many people are infected with the disease.
He says people living with HIV have a risk of developing tuberculosis that is about 20 times higher than that compared with people who do not have HIV. He says it is important that people with HIV be tested for tuberculosis so they can get the proper treatment to cure the disease and prevent it from spreading.
"HIV-infected people are highly vulnerable to getting TB and if they get a variety of TB that is resistant against drugs, they have very high case fatality rates, very high death rates," said Dr. De Kock. "We have seen outbreak of such events in South Africa, in other countries related to hospitals, anti-retroviral therapy clinics, prisons and so on. Just to point out, this is a reflection of weak TB programs and inadequate health systems that these situations arise."
The WHO report reveals a sharp increase in HIV testing among people who have tuberculosis, especially in Africa. As a consequence, it says more people are receiving the treatment they need, although the numbers remain small.
The World Health Organization warns drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis are growing and pose some of the greatest problems. In 2007, it estimates 500,000 people had multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, but less than one percent of them were receiving treatment.
The World Health Organization says great progress against both tuberculosis and HIV has been made in the past few years. But, it notes tuberculosis still kills more people with HIV than any other disease. It says more work and money is needed to scale up effective interventions for the prevention, treatment and care of TB worldwide.