By Amelia Christie, RESULTS CEO
World AIDS Day 2018 provides an opportunity to celebrate the progress we have made in HIV. However, the UNAIDS theme for this year ‘know your status’, also reminds us how interlinked HIV and tuberculosis are. Those with tuberculosis (or TB as it’s more commonly known) also often don’t receive a timely diagnosis, if indeed they receive one at all.
The ‘deadly duo’ – HIV and TB
People living with HIV are 20 times more likely to get tuberculosis during their lifetime. Despite the leaps we have made in diagnosis and treatment, tuberculosis and HIV remain two of the world’s leading infectious disease killers, causing 2.2 million deaths globally in 2017.
While TB deaths among people with HIV have fallen 44 per cent since 2000, the deadly duo continue to claim 300,000 lives per year, meaning almost one third of HIV-related deaths are due to tuberculosis. While rates of HIV in Australia are low compared to other parts of the world, it is important we remain vigilant to ensure rates of infection decline, that treatment for those living with HIV is effective, and that we do our bit to help other nations make significant headway in overcoming HIV.
To fight AIDS, we must fight TB
2018 marks the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. Mandela once said, “we cannot win the battle against AIDS if we do not also fight TB”. It is fitting that this year has seen incredible progress in the fight against TB and HIV. On 26 September world leaders made history at the first-ever United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB in New York, approving a Political Declaration to take urgent actions to fight tuberculosis. This includes a commitment to test six million people living with HIV for tuberculosis and to provide preventative treatment.
The coming year provides many opportunities to make strides in the fight against HIV. This Declaration is a strong starting point but will only remain a promise if it’s not translated to action. Both the TB and HIV communities cannot be complacent and must work closely together to ensure the Declaration becomes a reality.
The Global Fund’s role
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has saved 27 million lives since inception and is holding its sixth replenishment in 2019. This provides an important opportunity for our government to meaningfully invest in the global effort needed to end HIV.