Fifty-sixth session of the WHO Regional Committee, 19 to 23 September 2005
NOUMEA, New Caledonia - Despite significant progress towards controlling tuberculosis in the Western Pacific Region, mortality due to TB could rise significantly if the deadly connection between TB and HIV is not addressed, the World Health Organization has warned.
WHO's goal is to reduce TB prevalence and mortality by one half by 2010 from 1999 levels, but the TB-HIV co-infection threatens to reverse the steady progress towards achieving this goal. HIV is the leading cause of death among people with HIV/AIDS in the Western Pacific Region.
"Gains in recent years may be undermined unless TB-HIV collaborative activities are put into place," Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said in his report to the Regional Committee, WHO's governing body in the Region. "TB-HIV collaborative activities have yet to be introduced in most countries in the Region."
At its meeting here, the Regional Committee is reviewing WHO's work in the Region and discussing future health directions it will take in collaboration with Member States.
There has been growing concern in some countries and areas in the Region over the limited progress in initiating or improving TB-HIV collaborative activities, including TB-HIV surveillance. Surveillance of HIV among TB patients is a starting point for intensified case detection and for the implementation of TB-HIV interventions.
TB-HIV co-infection is a serious problem in several areas of Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and Viet Nam, and a growing concern in some population groups in China and Malaysia. "Establishing collaboration between HIV and TB programmes is an essential first step in addressing TB-HIV in countries and areas," said Dr Omi.
Countries such as Cambodia have already developed strong links between TB and HIV/AIDS programmes, with shared activities in the treatment of the two diseases.
In the Western Pacific Region, more than 1.5 million people were estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2004, and an estimated 120 000 people in the Region are expected to die of AIDS by the end of this year.