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Statement: Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D., on World Tuberculosis Day 2016

On World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, we can commit to ending TB by rapidly adopting the 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) Guideline on When to Start Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) and on Pre-exposure Prophylaxis for HIV Exit Disclaimer, more commonly known as “Test and START,” and strengthening partnerships among countries, multilateral organizations, and civil society.

TB is the leading cause of death among individuals living with HIV/AIDS – accounting for one in three AIDS-related deaths in 2015. Despite significant progress, only about half of notified TB patients are tested for HIV, and just a third of the estimated TB/HIV co-infected patients globally receive lifesaving ART.

We have the power to change this. A critical step is for countries to adopt – in a matter of months rather than years – the 2015 WHO guidelines recommending immediate ART for all people diagnosed with HIV and streamlined ART service delivery models for stable patients. ART is the most powerful prevention tool we have available for HIV-associated TB.

Earlier ART will directly impact the TB epidemic by reducing the number of people living with HIV who become sick or die from TB and those who transmit it to others. Through this approach, we can potentially eliminate 75 percent of TB cases among people living with HIV/AIDS.

By adopting the new WHO guidelines, along with other WHO-recommended collaborative TB/HIV activities, we can significantly reduce HIV-associated TB.