Wednesday, March 14, 2007

TB Threatens Progress Made Against HIV

News: George Soros's Open Society Institute pledged $3 million today for a pilot project to detect and treat drug-resistant TB in the tiny southern African nation of Lesotho. The program, which will be based in the Botsabelo district just outside the capital of Maseru will focus on detecting and treating people with drug-resistant throughout the country.

The larger aim, according to Soros and others who held a press teleconference on March 14, is to try to galvanize the global community to realize that drug-resistant tuberculosis is quickly threatening any progress that has been in the AIDS pandemic todate.

For years, drug-resistant TB and AIDS have grown as largely separate epidemics. But now, they are starting to fuel each other. (People with AIDS are more susceptible to tuberculosis because of their weakened immune states.) The recent emergence of extremely drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) in the South African region of KwazuluNatal is a case in point.

But it's not just HIV-positive patients who are at risk. Women, children and men with TB who don't receive proper care are at risk of infecting HIV-negative caregivers, families and friends.

"People have said is that XDR-TB is untreatable," Dr. Jim Kim of Partners in Health said in Wednesday's press teleconference. "That’s not true. We have treated XDR-TB. If we don’t respond aggressively now, however, we will soon have many patients with completely untreatable TB."

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