The Executive Director of UN Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), Mr Michel Sidibe, says Nigeria and nine other countries will be the focus of a new UN-led preventative treatments of tuberculosis (TB)/HIV infection.
Other beneficiaries are Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The UN-led initiative was inaugurated on Tuesday as part of a wider effort to accelerate the global fight against the highly fatal co-infection.
Sidibe urged the scaling up of services in affected countries through concerted and joint efforts.
He noted that the agreement between UNAIDS and the Stop TB Partnership would seek to achieve the 2015 goal of reducing deaths from TB among HIV patients by 50 per cent, or the equivalent of 600,000 lives.
“TB/HIV is a deadly combination; we can stop people from dying of HIV/TB co-infection through integration and simplification of HIV and TB services,’’ Sidibe said.
He said at the 2011 UN high-level meeting on AIDS, member states agreed on the ambitious objective of reducing by half the TB/HIV deaths by 2015.
“TB is preventable and curable at low cost, yet we still have one in four AIDS-related deaths caused by TB, and this is outrageous,’’ Dr Lucica Ditiu, the Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, also said at the inauguration.
Ditiu said that in spite of increased access to antiretroviral therapy for patients and a consequent 13 per cent reduction in the numbers of TB-associated HIV deaths over the past two years, the pulmonary disease remained the leading cause of death among HIV patients.
She noted that people living with HIV are 20 to 30 times more likely to develop active TB than people without HIV infections, with pregnant women and children particularly at risk.
According to her, in 2011 alone, 25 per cent of all AIDS-related deaths were caused by HIV-associated TB disease.