AIDS and TB responsible for a ‘double plague’

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More people are getting tuberculosis because of AIDS and more die of AIDS because of TB, yet doctors fail to recognise the respiratory disease in AIDS patients, according to a report released on Tuesday.

Together, TB and AIDS are causing a “double plague,” Stephen Lewis, the United Nations Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa told Reuters.

“Governments and the international community have got to realise they have on their hands two simultaneous and interrelated catastrophes,” Lewis said. “We must confront both together. We need more resources. We need diagnostics. We need better drugs.”

“TB is in fact the most common cause of death for people living with AIDS,” he added. “Ninety-nine percent of those infections and deaths are in the developing world.”

TB can be cured with several months of treatment with antibiotics.

Ezio Santos Filho, a lawyer and AIDS and TB activist in Brazil, told Reuters he is a living example of the problem.

He has been infected with the AIDS virus since 1985 and became infected with tuberculosis in 1992 when working with Brazilian TB patients.

“When people have AIDS it is difficult to diagnose TB,” Filho said.

“Normally they don’t have all the symptoms, all the typical characteristics that people without AIDS would have. People cough less and people have less sputum when they have AIDS.”

The report said in Tanzania, for example, only 47 percent of TB cases are detected. Undiagnosed patients spread TB.

“And for people living with HIV/AIDS, even a short delay in accessing TB treatment can be fatal,” the report said.

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