VIDEO: Stop AIDS, treat tuberculosis

Mandy Slutsker from ACTION urges our ONE members to hold our world leaders accountable in the fight against AIDS and TB.

Ten years ago the UN held a landmark General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS. Since then the world has achieved remarkable progress, reducing the rate of new infections by 25 percent and providing more than 6.6 million people with lifesaving treatment. Despite these successes, the fact remains — one out of every four people with HIV/AIDS will die from tuberculosis (TB), a preventable and curable disease.

We have the opportunity to change this. This week the Stop TB Partnership, in cooperation with UNAIDS and WHO, unveiled new scientific modeling showing that improvements in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of TB among people with HIV could reduce deaths by 80 percent — saving more than one million additional lives by 2015!

TB does not have to be a death sentence. We know what to do to address TB among people living with HIV — and the technology at our disposal is improving. However, the best global data currently available suggest that only 5 percent of people with HIV are even screened for TB. Access to testing and treatment must be urgently scaled up.

Yesterday I sat down with Lucy Chesire, TB survivor, well known TB-HIV advocate, and the Executive Director of TB Action Group in Kenya, to discuss Stop TB’s blueprint to Save a Million Lives. “I go to a PEPFAR-supported clinic every three months to get my antiretroviral drugs. There is not a single time they have failed to screen me for TB,” she explains. “Imagine if all clinics did the same thing.”

Not treating people with HIV for TB amounts to nothing less than global malpractice, says Chesire. Alicia Keys echoed this sentiment at yesterday’s UN high-level panel on Women and HIV/AIDS, calling for an end to TB, the third leading killer of women worldwide. Keys insisted, “Now that we know that treatment can stop the disease in its tracks we would literally be getting away with murder if we don’t.”

We know what needs to be done on TB-HIV. Now we need the funds. Chesire looks to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for guidance. As advocates, Chesire maintains, “we need to make sure their statements translate into the money that is needed to integrate [TB-HIV services] at the country level.”

The time to act is now. We need to hold our leaders accountable. Donors need to put in the resources and country governments need to take the lead and provide integrated services that save people’s lives.

Send leaders a million messages — urging them to fight AIDS and TB together to save a million lives!

Visit www.action.org to take action and save a million lives from TB-HIV.

Mandy Slutsker is a Research Associate at Advocacy to Control Tuberculosis Internationally (ACTION), an international partnership of advocates working to mobilize resources to treat and prevent the spread of tuberculosis. ACTION is a project of the RESULTS Educational Fund.