World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday urged Asian countries to harness the growing trend of HIV and TB (Tuberculosis) co-infection and its resulting deaths in the region.
A statement released by the Manila-based WHO Western Pacific Region office said people living with HIV who develop TB are 10 times more likely to die earlier than those who do not.
Dr. Shigeru Omi, WHO's regional director, said unfortunately to this day new TB patients have insufficient access to HIV testing.
"This contributes to very high case fatality rates of 25-50 percent among new TB patients in the Western Pacific Region," Omi said, adding that half of TB patients infected with HIV would have died during TB treatment, if antiretroviral therapy is not provided.
Omi said HIV testing should be made part of TB diagnosis.
Although antiretroviral therapy access has greatly expanded in the region since 2004, HIV testing in TB patients and TB screening among people with HIV remain low, WHO said.
TB is a major problem in the Western Pacific Region, which accounts for about one third of the global TB burden.
WHO said health officials from nine Asian countries, including China, Malaysia and the Philippines, have agreed to take steps to address the problem through the increase of testing and screening, the early access to antiretroviral therapies, and improved infection control.
(Xinhua News Agency February 21, 2008)