The WHO released new guidelines outlining how people living with HIV can be protected from developing active TB. The ‘Guidelines for intensified tuberculosis case-finding and isoniazid preventive therapy for people living with HIV in resource-constrained settings’, focuses on a combination of increased screening for TB and treating HIV-patients with Isoniazid Preventive Therapy (IPT). Isoniazid is a first-line anti-TB drug and can be used as preventive treatment for TB.
Due to their weakened immune system, HIV patients are not only more likely to contract TB, they are also more likely to develop active TB. Without treatment, nine out of ten people with HIV die within months of developing active TB. The WHO estimates that one fourth of all AIDS-related deaths are due to TB. HIV-TB co-infection has created a dual epidemic, as HIV-positive patients are living with HIV but dying from TB.
The WHO’s new guidelines provide hope for improved treatment of HIV patients co-infected with TB. The guidelines recommend that all people living with HIV, including children, pregnant women and those receiving anti-retroviral treatment, receive IPT as a simple and cost-effective means of preventing TB bacteria, if present, from becoming active. Currently, a mere 0.2 per cent of HIV patients are receiving IPT.
In addition, the WHO recommends further screening all those with HIV who have TB symptoms to see if they have developed active TB so that those infected can access treatment needed and to prevent further spread of TB to others.
The director of WHO’s Stop TB Department, Dr Mario Raviglione, said:
“In many countries HIV is a major driver of the TB epidemic. TB is preventable and curable and the new guidelines show how to break the chain that links TB and HIV leading to death.”