Infectious disease experts called on President Obama and Congress to mount a concerted and comprehensive response to the deadly alliance between HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis during a June 25 briefing on Capitol Hill. The briefing highlighted a new report by the Center for Global Health Policy, “Deadly Duo: The Synergy Between HIV/AIDS & Tuberculosis.”
The briefing and the report highlighted the fact that policymakers have not treated HIV-TB co-infection as an issue needing an emergency response despite an enormous death toll. Without action, presenters at the briefing warned, lives rescued from AIDS through access to lifesaving HIV treatment will be lost to TB, a painful, debilitating disease.
“TB is the greatest threat to the miracle of HIV therapy,” said Diane Havlir, MD, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and chief of the HIV/AIDS Division and Positive Health Program at San Francisco General Hospital. Dr. Havlir also serves on the Center’s Scientific Advisory Committee.
The Center’s report details steps the U.S. government should take to aggressively lead the response to the worldwide threat of HIV/AIDS and TB co-infection, including:
- Provide $6.5 billion in funding for bilateral HIV/AIDS programs, consistent with the Lantos-Hyde Act, to ensure the scale-up of antiretroviral therapy
- Greatly increase funding for research and development to battle co-infection, including doubling spending at the National Institutes of Health to $320 million for TB research
- Ensure that TB control funding levels through various programs match the seriousness of the co-infection epidemic
The document also calls on the White House to launch a Presidential Initiative on Tuberculosis to ensure a concerted, comprehensive response to the disease. And it calls on the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator to ensure that HIV patients are screened for TB and treated for TB disease or with TB preventive therapy in settings with appropriate infection control measures in place.
In addition to Dr. Havlir, the briefing also featured Carol Dukes Hamilton, MD, FIDSA , co-chair of the Center’s Scientific Advisory Committee and a senior director of research at Family Health International. Dr. Hamilton gave a detailed presentation on the TB epidemic, while Dr. Havlir described HIV and TB co-infection. Rosemary Mburu with the Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium provided a first-person perspective drawn from her work as an AIDS advocate in Kenya. Christine Lubinski, vice president for global health at IDSA, moderated the session, which was attended by congressional staff who work on foreign policy and health issues, along with advocates from the global health community.
For more coverage of the briefing, see this post on the Global Center’s Science Speaks blog.
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