TB, South Africa’s Number One Killer of AIDS Sufferers: Expert
September 11, 2003
Tuberculosis is the number one killer among South Africans with HIV/AIDS, an international expert said Wednesday after a three-day meeting seeking to create awareness of TB. Patrick Bertrand, regional coordinator of the Swiss-based Massive Effort Campaign, a nonprofit organization specializing in fusing efforts to combat TB, AIDS, and malaria, said the chance of contracting TB is 10 times higher for HIV-positive people than for those who are HIV-negative.
"Yet, it is an easily treated and curable disease -- the drugs and diagnoses are free and accessible everywhere in the country," Bertrand said during a visit to clinics at Merafong, a mining community 50 miles southeast of Johannesburg. South Africa has the highest HIV/TB co-infection rate in the world, with more than half of those suffering from TB also suffering from HIV/AIDS, Bertrand said.
Sister Thembi Kariyeni, a health worker in Khutsong township, said the patients' treatment default rate is high. "Because you deal with migrant mine workers, they often go back to their homes elsewhere in southern Africa and then for various reasons don't take their medication, including giving it to other relatives who suffer from the same disease," Kariyeni said. "This gives rise to drug-resistant tuberculosis, which is a lot more expensive and a lot more difficult to treat."
Field workers believe that the infrastructure developed by health authorities to treat TB could also be used for national AIDS treatment. "We believe that because there is such a strong link between HIV/AIDS and TB, they can both be treated at the same time," said one field worker, who asked not to be identified. "With HIV/AIDS there has been a lot of publicity and we haven't seen a lot of drugs. With TB, there are a lot of drugs and treatment available for free, but there has not been a lot of publicity around it."
Agence France Presse
09.10.2003; Jan Hennop
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.