Some 910,000 lives were saved globally over six years, notably in Africa, due to improving collaboration between health services to protect people with HiV from tuberculosis.
So says the World Health Organisation (WHO), which notes that the number of people living with HIV screened for TB increased almost 12-fold, from nearly 200,000 in 2005 to over 2.3 million people in 2010. Testing for HIV among TB patients surged from 470 000 to over 2.2 million over the same period.
The WHO's analysis notes that more than 100 countries are now testing more than half of their TB patients for HIV. Progress was "especially noteworthy in Africa" where the number of countries testing more than half their TB patients for HIV rose from five in 2005 to 31 in 2010.
Given that HIV weakens the immune system, sufferers are much more likely to get TB, so it is not unusual for people who are infected with one disease to also be infected with the other.
Mario Raviglione, WHO director of the Stop TB department, says "this framework is the international standard for the prevention, care and treatment of TB and HIV patients to reduce deaths and we have strong evidence that it works. He added that "now is the time to build on these actions and break the chain that links TB and HIV with death".
However the WHO notes that "there is still more work needed". The number of patients co-infected with TB and HIV on antiviral treatment rose gradually from 36% to 46% over the five-year period, "and needs further strengthening as all TB patients living with HIV should receive life-saving ART". It adds that use of isoniazid preventive therapy, a cost-effective medicine to protect people with HIV from TB illness, increased somewhat but uptake could be expanded as more patients become eligible under the WHO's updated policy guidelines using simple methods.
Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO's HIV/AIDS department, said that "we must address TB as we manage HIV” and "we have shown over the last five years what can be done". To continue the progress, he states that comprehensive HIV services must include the 'three I’s' - isoniazid preventive therapy, intensified screening and infection control for TB - and says it should also include earlier treatment for HIV for those that are eligible.