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Action Alert: World TB Day - Time to Act

8. March 2012

    World TB Day: Time to Act

    World Tuberculosis (TB) Day falls on 24 March. Faith communities who mark World AIDS Day need to also raise the profile of World TB Day as part of our global emphasis for justice and health. In 2010, 8.8 million people contracted TB, and 1.4 million people died from the disease. Yet TB is preventable and can usually be cured with inexpensive medicines.

    The links between HIV and TB are close-knit and deadly:

    • TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV. Worldwide, one in four TB deaths is HIV-related.
    • People living with HIV are about 21-34 times more likely to develop TB than people free of HIV infection.
    • In 2010, 350.000 people died of HIV-associated TB. 82% came from sub-Saharan Africa.
    • Without treatment, the vast majority of people living with HIV who are sick with TB will die within a few months.
    • TB attracts its own stigma and discriminatory attitudes, compounding those associated with HIV.

    • It is therefore vital that those responding to HIV, including faith-based communities, engage in efforts to stop the spread of TB. We can do this by advocating for accountability to commitments to a 50% reduction in TB-related deaths by 2015, a target that is specified in the Global Plan to Stop TB 2011–2015, affirmed in the UN General Assembly Political Declaration on HIV in June 2011, and in line with the Millennium Development Goals.

      To do so, we need to work with governments and civil society to:

      1. Make health services more widely available. In 2010 less than a third of people living with HIV who had contracted TB sought care at a clinic. That needs to double by 2015.
      2. Improve the quality of TB care. By 2015, the cure rate for TB should be at least 85%, up from 70%.
      3. Reach out to test for HIV and screen for TB. In countries where HIV and TB are prevalent, screening programmes should provide testing for both infections to everyone in the population every three years. All people who test positive for HIV and are also found to have TB should start TB treatment immediately (while those who do not have active TB should begin ART when their CD4 count reaches 350). After two weeks on TB treatment, they should begin ART. Less than 7% of the 34 million people living with HIV are screened for TB. By end 2015, 80% of TB cases among people living with HIV should be detected and treated.
      4. Prevent TB. People living with HIV who are routinely exposed to TB should be protected against infection. Such protection is cheap and simple—a daily dose of isoniazid. By end 2015, 30% of people living with HIV who do not have active TB should receive this preventive treatment.
      5. Provide ART sooner. People living with HIV are far less likely to become ill with and die of TB if they begin ART before their immune systems begin serious decline. By 2015, people living with HIV should receive ART as soon as blood tests show that their CD4 count has dropped to 350.
      6. Follow the Three I’s for HIV/TB: Intensified TB case finding, Isoniazid preventive therapy and Infection control for TB. WHO recommends combining these three aspects along with ART as a TB prevention package, and including them as core components of HIV and AIDS services and programmes.

      7. More action is needed to raise awareness of TB and HIV co-infection

        For World TB Day 2012, why not consider taking one or more of the following actions:

        1. Include an article about TB in your church newsletter ahead of World TB Day.
        2. Include TB as a theme in your worship service around World TB Day, offering prayers for those suffering from the disease, those treating the sick, and those undertaking research for better treatments and vaccines.
        3. Tell your political leaders how important it is to fund The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which provides critical funds for efforts against TB and HIV.
        4. Become a Stop TB Partner and join the efforts to “Save a Million Lives by 2015.” Partners from around the world bring technical expertise and resources to the Stop TB Partnership. Any organization (governmental, nongovernmental or private) interested in and committed to the global fight against TB is welcome to join. The Stop TB Partnership Secretariat also can provide advice and assistance with the creation of national Stop TB partnerships. To find out more, visit: www.stoptb.org.
        5. Join the Stop TB mailing list: www.stoptb.org/mailinglist.asp.
        6. Support or create a campaign within your own community. Some examples of what various countries are doing to commemorate this day are: The ‘Lend your voice to stopping TB’ campaign in Papua New Guinea where individuals make a pledge to help stop TB www.worldtbday.org/category/events/. Create a TB banner or short video on TB and post it on youtube and/or www.worldtbday.org, like communities are currently doing in Canada. Or why not support the ‘Kick TB’ campaign which aims to unite people in the fight against the twin diseases of TB and HIV in South Africa www.kicktb.co.za.

        Remember, please inform us of what you are doing to commemorate the World TB day by contacting: rfoley@e-alliance.ch

        Related Resources

        Facts about TB: www.stoptb.org/resources/factsheets

        Global Plan to Stop TB (2011-2015) Overview: www.stoptb.org/assets/documents/global/plan/stopTB2011_insert_FINAL.pdf

        Reducing TB deaths in People Living with HIV: www.stoptb.org/assets/documents/resources/publications/acsm/TB_HIV_Brochure_Singles.pdf

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/

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