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TB-HIV:  A social disease made worse by poor political will

Abdusamad Latifov, project assistant at the secretariat for the National Coalition STOP TB Partnership, Tajikistan and an ACTION media champion, attended the 2016 International AIDS Conference and the TB 2016 pre-conference, held in Durban, South Africa, this July 16 – 22.

During the conference, ACTION launched a report on TB-HIV called From Policy to Practice, which shows that while countries have taken steps in the right direction since 2014 to combat the deadly duo of TB and HIV, policy improvements have not all translated into changes at the facility level. Moreover, the burden to carry out TB-HIV activities still falls heavily on under-resourced TB programs.

Abdusamad spoke at the press conference launching the report. As an activist, he spoke about what needs to be done to combat TB-HIV in the EECA region and in middle income countries, such as Tajikistan and Ukraine.

Below are Abdusamad’s remarks during that press conference.

Good morning, dear ladies and gentlemen.

I am Abdusamad Latifov, a TB activist from Central Asia, Tajikistan.

These days, due to a certain number of barriers, the treatment of TB and HIV is becoming extremely challenging in middle income countries.

In East Europe and Central Asia (EECA), a lot of effort has been invested to fight both epidemics; however, it [progress] is held back because of a failure to coordinate.

There is something is wrong in the way we are responding to the TB and HIV epidemics. There is something is missing—the engagement of local governments and stakeholders, as well as communities. TB-HIV is a social disease made worse by poor political will and commitment to control it.

Now in the EECA, donor funding for TB and HIV services is still critical, but the progress made in TB and HIV services is dangerously at risk if governments don’t step up to the plate to increase domestic funding. EECA is home to the fastest growing HIV epidemic and the highest rates of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in the world, often concentrated in populations that are the hardest to reach.

TB and HIV services often run as parallel, disconnected programs; coordination and referral mechanisms between programs are limited or nonexistent. Even policies that call for coordination between TB and HIV programs often do not translate into practice at the local level. In many of the middle income countries, there is limited coordination and referrals between HIV, TB, and drug treatment programs.

Let’s pause for a moment and reflect on the data from the Global TB Report 2015. The report says that 9.6 million people develop TB each year and 1.5 million died, including 400,000 people who were HIV positive.

Year after year, we look at the statistics, and somehow we have become immune to this reality. Behind these numbers are faceless individuals, families, and communities facing unthinkable tragedies. Yet, year after year, we come here to such conferences and talk about incremental progress we have made and then we will go back again to our countries—without any action.

Now it is time to act. Our actions should match our intentions, and we have to place much more focus on TB/HIV co-infection than we have till now.

To conclude, I would say that one of the actual issues that require urgent intervention is to combine all the efforts against TB-HIV disease. Collaborative activities on TB-HIV have to be strengthened; the burden of both diseases is high and calls for prompt and immediate action.

Thank you very much for your attention.

What inspires Abdusamad

"We have to create a better future for the young generation"

Confronting TB and the Stigma Around It from ACTION on Vimeo