Tackling HIV associated Tuberculosis this World AIDS Day

By Professor Robert Wilkinson, Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow in Clinical Tropical Medicine, Director of the University of Cape Town Clinical Infectious Diseases Research Initiative (CIDRI) and Professor in Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London

AIDS dayToday, 1st December, is World AIDS Day, an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with the disease and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), since the beginning of the epidemic, almost 78 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 39 million people have died of HIV.

Globally, about 35 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2013. An estimated 0.8% of adults aged 15–49 years worldwide are living with HIV, although the burden of the epidemic continues to vary considerably between countries and regions.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains most severely affected, with nearly 1 in every 20 adults living with HIV and accounting for nearly 71% of the people living with HIV worldwide.

HIV associated Tuberculosis

The risk of developing tuberculosis (TB) is estimated to be around 15-20 times greater in people living with HIV than among those without HIV infection.

TB remains one of the world’s deadliest communicable infections. According to the 2013 WHO report, a total of 9 million people developed TB in the world and 1.3 million died of the disease.

An estimated 1.1 million (13%) of the 9 million TB patients were also infected with HIV and 25% of all TB cases were from the African region. Four out of every five (80%) TB-HIV co-infected persons and TB deaths among patients infected with HIV are from the African Region.

In 2013, South Africa reported 328,896 TB cases of which 64,000 died and 1.8% were diagnosed with multi-drug resistant TB (MDR). Accelerating prevention, and improving diagnosis and treatment of TB has been a key focus as part of efforts to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals.

The European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership

Phase 1 of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) was created in 2003 as a European response to the global health crisis caused by the three main poverty-related diseases of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The three projects funded by EDCTP aimed to directly contribute to the efforts of TB vaccine development, improved diagnosis of TB and proper management of patients dually infected with HIV and TB.

Since its inception, the EDCTP has invested €66.41 million to support 54 research projects on HIV/AIDS, including substantial capacity upgrade at clinical research centres in 23 sub-Saharan Africa countries. The EDCTP portfolio on HIV/AIDS includes 13 treatment trials, second-line therapy and paediatric treatment and studies on HIV/TB co-infection. Six studies focus on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission. Eight vaccine trials have been supported, as well as three trials on microbicides and one trial focused on mechanisms to maximise retention and adherence to treatment. Moreover, EDCTP provided professional training in HIV/AIDS research to 224 African scientists and medical doctors, including 21 Senior Fellows as well as more than 183 Master’s and PhD students.

EDCTP Phase 2

Today marks the launch of phase two of the EDCTP, a €630 million program of European investment in Clinical trials and associated capacity development against HIV, Malaria, tuberculosis and other neglected diseases.  To mark the occasion, a high level launch event in Cape Town is underway.  The event is jointly organised by the European Commission and EDCTP, under the auspices of the South African Department of Science and Technology. It will provide an opportunity to discuss the role and strategic vision of the second EDCTP programme as well as explore possibilities for synergies with other international initiatives.

The high-level event expects to welcome approximately 200 delegates, including African and European government representatives, major research funders, scientists, industry representatives and other experts in the field.

Delegates include:

  • Commissioner Carlos Moedas, Member of the European Commission in charge of Research, Science and Innovation
  • Antonia Vicente, Head of Cabinet
  • Roeland van de Geer, Head of European Union delegation, Pretoria
  • Robert-Jan Smits, General Director, DG Research and Innovation, European Commission
  • Ruxandra Draghia-Akli, Director, RTD.E – Health Research
  • Elisabeth Lipiatou, Head of Unit, RTD.C.3
  • Nienke Buisman, Policy Officer, RTD.C.3
  • Stephane Hogan, EU Science Counsellor to the African Union, European Commission

EDCTP2 will continue to support the clinical development of new or improved diagnostics, drugs, vaccines and microbicides against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria and will continue to promote and support:

  • Multicentre projects that combine clinical trials, capacity building and networking;
  • Capacity development for clinical trials and clinical research in developing countries;
  • Fellowships;
  • Closer collaboration with industry, like-minded organisations, funders of global health research and development cooperation agencies.

With the right knowledge, resources and collaborations, together, we can help to eradicate the global burden of HIV, AIDS and TB for good.

Event photos 

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World AIDS Day – Join the debate

For further information on research into HIV and AIDs, follow the hashtag #WAD2014 on Twitter.  More information can be found on the World AIDS Day website.

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