A recent report from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that though the total number of new cases of tuberculosis worldwide remained stable in 2007, the population becoming ill with TB has continued to decline slowly since 2004. However, the 2009 global TB control report also indicates that one of every four TB deaths is HIV-related – a figure that is twice what was previously recognized.
In 2007, there were an estimated 1.37 million new cases of TB among HIV-infected individuals and approximately 465,000 deaths. As quoted in the WHO report, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO stated that “These findings point to an urgent need to find, prevent and treat tuberculosis in people living with HIV and to test for HIV in all patients with TB in order to provide prevention, treatment and care. Countries can only do that through stronger collaborative programmes and stronger health systems that address both diseases.”
Many areas have begun to see increases in HIV testing among people being treated for TB, especially in African nations. Where just 4 percent of TB patients were tested in 2004, 37 percent were tested in 2007 with several countries testing more than 75 percent of TB patients to determine their HIV status. This increase in testing has led to an increase in the number of people receiving appropriate treatment, though it is still only a small fraction of those who need care. Despite increases in testing, the co-infection of HIV and drug-resistant forms of TB presents one of the greatest treatment challenges. The WHO report indicates that in 2007 there were an estimated 500,000 people who presented with multidrug-resistant TB.
Due to the high cost needed to ensure that treatment can be delivered in the ninety-four countries in which 93 percent of the world’s cases of TB occur, additional funding will be needed by the Stop TB Partnership’s Global Plan to Stop TB. Though “remarkable progress against both TB and HIV [have been made] in the last few years…TB still kills more people with HIV than any other disease,” said Dr. Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.