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Spike in TB/HIV Cases Alarms Health Officials in Europe

Spike in TB/HIV Cases on Alarms Health Officals in Europe

Two leading world health organizations release disturbing data that, although on the overall decline, tuberculosis has been increasing in HIV patients in European countries.

Though overall rates of tuberculosis have been declining in European countries, recent research shows that TB rates are on the rise among those living with HIV. An alarming trend, since TB is one of the leading causes of death in HIV positive people. The data was released this week by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office of Europe.

The research shows that new TB cases and deaths in the 53 countries of the WHO European Region declined each year by 4.3 percent and 8.5 perecnt respectively between 2011 and 2015 — but unfortunately, new TB/HIV co-infections increased by 40 percent during the same time period. This is of great concern for health officials because, as of 2015, the cases of cumulative TB/HIV have reached over 2 million for the first time ever.

A large part of the problem, say experts, is that many of these people are unaware of their status, and are not on antiretroviral therapy. Of an estimated 27,000 new TB/HIV patients in the region in 2015, only about two thirds were diagnosed, and 5,800 had started antiretroviral treatment. People who both TB and are also HIV positive have a seven times higher risk of treatment failure, and have a three times higher risk of dying than people with TB only.

“The flare-up of TB/HIV co-infections from 2011 to 2015, together with persistently high rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis, seriously threaten progress made towards ending TB, the goal that European and world leaders have committed to achieve by 2030,” said Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, the regional director at WHO’s European Office. “One in three people co-infected with TB/HIV do not know about their status, which drastically lowers their chances of being cured. In turn, this favors the spread of the diseases, putting health systems and governments under pressure.”

To help solve this problem, the WHO is strongly recommending that European countries begin providing HIV testing and counseling to all TB patients, and vice versa, as stated in their 2016-2020 TB action plan. The ECDC also says the need to attack this problem head-on is vital to ending TB once and for all. “The general downward trend in reported TB cases is encouraging,” said Dr. Andrea Ammon, ECDC’s acting director, “but some groups are not benefiting from this trend and we need to target our efforts better if we want to end the TB epidemic.”


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