This letter is meant to help ensure greater attention is paid to TB-HIV at this year’s International AIDS Conference. The Joint Program Committee for the Conference will be meeting again in Washington on January 18th. You can send the name of your group to David Bryden (Stop TB Advocacy Officer, RESULTS) at: email@example.com.
Dear Members of the Conference Coordinating Committee:
In the past year, we have seen incredible progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, thanks to determined scientists, activists and community leaders. But even greater progress is possible if we boldly address the crisis of Tuberculosis-HIV coinfection (TB-HIV), since TB still accounts for one in four AIDS deaths. Without treatment and prophylaxis, people living with HIV have a 20-30 times higher lifetime risk of developing active TB, compared with people without HIV.
We, the undersigned organizations, urge you in your planning of the XIX International AIDS Conference to prioritize giving high level visibility to TB-HIV coinfection and the exciting progress in addressing this health crisis. This would include selecting plenary sessions, non-abstract driven sessions, symposia, workshops, and more, which include speakers that will address TB-HIV in all its aspects; ensuring that TB/HIV is mainstreamed as much as possible into other thematic areas and special populations, such as for PMTCT, harm reduction, etc (not just standalone sessions on TB/HIV as an issue on its own); and ensuring TB/HIV messaging is included in press conferences by IAS leaders.
Conference planning should ensure that attention is drawn to the international goals agreed to on TB-HIV. We have a global target of halving the number of TB deaths among people living with HIV by 2015, but we can be even bolder. TB-HIV advocates are urging the global community to support rapid expansion and scale up of TB-HIV services, with the particular aim of saving 1 million additional lives by preventing deaths from TB among people living with HIV by 2015.
The conference should also draw attention to TB-HIV research and development. Scientific advances have led to significant progress in the understanding of TB-HIV and development of tools to address it. But greater investment will bring more critical breakthroughs: faster-working drugs with fewer side effects that are better adapted to people living with HIV; a cheap, low-tech TB test that works as quickly as an HIV test; and a TB vaccine that will protect everyone vulnerable, including people living with HIV. Despite the urgent need, funding for TB research is unfortunately in decline.
Some of the hardest-hit countries are leading the way forward, and conference planning should take this into account when selecting speakers. For instance, the South African government recently conducted a national HIV counseling and testing campaign that included TB screening. It has also unveiled a national strategic plan to tackle HIV/AIDS that, for the first time, will also guide the country's fight against tuberculosis (TB). This national strategic plan also acknowledges the critical role of research and innovation in combating HIV and TB, and the groundbreaking contributions that South African researchers have made in this area. South Africa is also leading the way in rolling out the GeneXpert TB diagnostic, which is especially efficacious in persons with HIV.
It is also worth noting, since the conference will take place in the United States, that the US earmarks funding for TB-HIV within its bilateral HIV/AIDS program and has identified people living with HIV who have active TB as a priority for immediate access to antiretroviral medication.
We are extremely fortunate in that many of the members of the Conference Coordinating Committee have enormous expertise on this aspect of the fight against HIV/AIDS. We appreciate your work and are ready to serve as informational resources as you plan this important meeting.
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American Thoracic Society
Global Alliance for TB Drug Development