Press statement from the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Latin America and the Caribbean on the occasion of World Tuberculosis Day, March 24
PANAMA CITY/ KINGSTON, 24 March 2017—On the occasion of World Tuberculosis Day, the UNAIDS Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean joins the call of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) for governments, communities, civil society and the private sector to work together to end Tuberculosis (TB). Tuberculosis is preventable and curable. Despite this, there were an estimated 24,400 deaths due to TB in the Americas in 2015.
People living with HIV are 20 to 30 times more likely to develop active TB than HIV-negative people. The combination of HIV infection and tuberculosis has serious consequences since one infection accelerates the other. Worldwide, tuberculosis is the most common cause of hospitalization and death among people living with HIV. In 2015 there were 400,000 TB-related deaths among people living with HIV globally. Ten percent of these deaths were among children. An estimated 6,000 people living with HIV died from TB in the Americas in 2015.
"TB and HIV coinfection is associated with other vulnerabilities that affect individuals, families and communities,” said Dr. César Núñez, UNAIDS Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “We must address stigma, discrimination and the social and economic inequalities that hinder people’s access to health services and comprehensive care. Civil society plays a critical role in advocating for integrated HIV/TB services and ensuring that the most hard-to-reach populations access them.”
Health system weaknesses continue to undermine tuberculosis diagnoses in this region. In the Americas, according to PAHO/WHO data, 50,000 people with tuberculosis were not diagnosed in 2015. Early detection and effective treatment are essential to prevent tuberculosis-related deaths, especially among people living with HIV.
Inadequate linkages to care after diagnosis, poor follow-up, failure to reach the people most at risk of disease—particularly marginalized populations, including people who use drugs, prisoners and migrant workers—and poor treatment outcomes contribute to the lack of progress.
Drug resistance is also a major concern—in 2015, there were an estimated 480 000 new cases of multidrug-resistant TB. The recent approval of two new medicines to treat TB, the first in more than 60 years, is improving the outlook for people with drug-resistant TB.
UNAIDS calls for the elimination of TB deaths among people living with HIV and for health systems to be strengthened and services integrated to allow for a more rapid scale-up of HIV and TB programming. Countries must expand HIV prevention and treatment programmes that include regular TB screening, preventive therapy and early treatment, since they are simple, affordable and effective programmes that prevent TB deaths. Scientific studies have shown that early diagnosis and treatment of HIV can reduce the risk of acquiring tuberculosis by 65%. If people living with HIV develop tuberculosis, antiretroviral therapy can reduce their chance of dying by 50%.
UNAIDS is continuing to support countries to Fast-Track their efforts to reach the critical 2020 targets of the 2016 Political Declaration. As part of these efforts, UNAIDS is urging countries to intensify action to accelerate results by implementing focused, high-impact programmes to advance progress in ending the AIDS epidemic.