LONDON (Reuters) - An estimated 910,000 lives were saved worldwide over six years thanks to better collaboration between health services to protect people with the AIDS virus from tuberculosis, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday.
The WHO said there had been a sharp rise in the numbers of HIV positive people tested for tuberculosis (TB) and vice versa from 2005 to 2010.
That allowed doctors to treat people more quickly and prevent the spread of TB to other patients, it added.
Because the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS weakens the immune system, people with it are much more likely to be infected with TB. Around 34 million people around the world have HIV.
TB kills around 1.7 million people a year. Death rates among HIV patients are high, particularly in poorer countries.
The WHO said more than 100 countries are now testing at least half of their TB patients for HIV.
"Progress was especially noteworthy in Africa where the number of countries testing more than half their TB patients for HIV rose from five in 2005 to 31 in 2010," it added.
The number of HIV positive people screened for TB rose almost 12-fold, from nearly 200,000 in 2005 to more than 2.3 million in 2010, the WHO said, as it released data on the impact of its 2004 guidelines on TB and HIV.
Based on the success shown by the 2004 to 2010 data, the WHO issued an updated global policy to speed up coordination of public health services to try to cut TB/HIV death rates further.
"This framework is the international standard for the prevention, care and treatment of TB and HIV patients to reduce deaths - and we have strong evidence that it works," said Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO's Stop TB department.
The WHO's updated strategy calls for routine HIV testing for all TB patients, people with symptoms of TB, and those close to them.
It also recommends the quick start of treatment for all those who test positive for the AIDS virus with both co-trimoxazole, a drug to protect against lung or other infections, and with AIDS drugs known as antiretroviral therapy (ART).
It said these services and treatments "should be provided in an integrated manner at the same time and place."
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
[Image via Shutterstock.com.]
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