ZIMBABWE has over the years made some tremendous strides towards fighting the worlds leading killer disease AIDS, which according to statistics has claimed millions of lives.
In 2015, Zimbabwe recorded 13 000 AIDS related deaths while HIV prevalence stood at 13,8 percent indicating a 15 percent decline from the previous year. New infections went down from 0,98 to 0,78 percent in 2015.
Even though the country is celebrating these milestones, Tuberculosis (TB) still remains a big threat to most government’s efforts of ending AIDS by 2030. TB and AIDS according to one Dr Ruth Labode, Chairperson for the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Health are like Siamese twins.
The two ailments are somehow inseparable, usually once one is diagnosed of HIV, somewhere along the journey, TB catches up with them.
In 2015, Parliament convened in Kadoma to deliberate on the TB scourge with the aim of finding a lasting solution to the ailment which is making the fight against AIDS almost impossible to win.
According to statistics, Matebleland South recorded the highest cases and deaths related to TB in 2016, registering not less than 309 deaths. Up to 96 percent of the patients in the region tested HIV positive in the same period with 89 percent being enrolled on Anti Retro Viral drugs (ARVs) and 94 percent testing HIV positive and 90 percent put on ART.
According to online medical journal on http://journals.plos.org, (TB) and HIV co-infections place an immense burden on health care systems and pose particular diagnostic and therapeutic challenges.
Infection with HIV is the most powerful known risk factor predisposing for Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.Tuberculosis) infection and progression to active disease, which increases the risk of latent TB reactivation 20-fold. TB is also the most common cause of AIDS-related death.
Thus, M.tuberculosis and HIV act in synergy, accelerating the decline of immunological functions and leading to subsequent death if untreated. The mechanisms behind the breakdown of the immune defense of the co-infected individual are not well known.
There is a vaccine for TB but it only makes a small contribution to TB prevention, as it does little to interrupt the transmission of TB among adults.
The vaccine called Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) was first developed in the 1920s. It is one of the most widely used of all current vaccines, and it reaches more than 80 percent of all new born children and infants in countries where it is part of the national childhood immunization programme.
What could be the way forward in ending HIV/AIDS then considering there is this elephant in the room called TB whose presence has been evidently felt in Zimbabwe.
As long as TB still roams freely and a preventive measure is not put in place, then we might as well forget the notion or the slightest idea of reducing AIDS related deaths.