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PRESS RELEASE: World AIDS Day 1 December 2017

AIDS Remains a Global Threat Due to TB Link: Forum of International Respiratory Societies

Cape Town, Glenview, Lausanne, Montevideo, New York, Paris, Tokyo, 1 December 2017 – In recognition of World AIDS Day, held annually on 1 December each year since 1988, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is calling on governments, health advocates and non-government organizations to strengthen their response to HIV/AIDS. In 2016 AIDS claimed one million lives.

FIRS, of which the American Thoracic Society is a founding member, is an organization comprised of the world's leading international respiratory societies working together to improve lung health globally. FIRS supports these efforts through research, patient care and advocacy.

The lungs are commonly involved in AIDS, leading to significant morbidity and mortality. In addition to TB, pulmonary manifestations of AIDS may include pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia bacterial pneumonia, and pulmonary Kaposi sarcoma, a form of cancer. Globally, AIDS has led to a resurgence of TB in many low- and middle-income countries. It is estimated that people who are infected with HIV are 26 to 31 times more likely to become sick with TB, which is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV. In fact, despite advances in AIDS treatment, TB accounts for one in three AIDS-related deaths, a statistic that illustrates the inexorable link between AIDS and respiratory disease.

World AIDS Day is an important reminder of the continuing worldwide toll of this disease. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 36.7 million people were living with HIV and 1.8 million were newly infected in 2016. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of new HIV infections declined in most regions of the world, but remained the same in Latin American and climbed by 60 percent in Eastern Europe and central Asia, according to UNAIDS.

"The global response to AIDS has been successful in reducing new HIV infections and HIV-related deaths, but continued investment is needed to reduce the number of deaths related to TB," said American Thoracic Society President Marc Moss, MD. "Addressing the toll of respiratory deaths, in general, and TB deaths in particular will help in our efforts to realize the UNAIDS goal to end the AIDS epidemic by the year 2030."

FIRS believes a global response to HIV/AIDS can be strengthened by:

  • Increasing awareness of the continuing global threat of HIV-related disease.
  • Improving the health outcomes of people living with HIV through patient care and research.
  • Adequately funding research into improved treatments and treatment strategies.
  • Reducing the incidence and severity of HIV-related disease by strengthening mother-to-child transmission prevention programmes and increasing the early use of antiretroviral therapy.
  • Improving HIV education in at-risk communities to reduce the incidence of new HIV infections.
  • Reducing HIV-related health disparities and inequities.

These efforts will build on the progress that has been made in reducing AIDS-related death and morbidity.

Fact Sheet

AIDS: Despite progress, a serious, often deadly disease

  • Around the world in 2016, 1 million people died from AIDS, 36.7 million were living with HIV/AIDS, and 1.8 million had become newly infected. (Source: World Health Organization)
  • AIDS has hit Africa the hardest. The continent has 11 percent of the world population, but 60 percent of those living with HIV/AIDS and nearly two-thirds of the new infections. .AIDS is the leading cause of adult deaths in Africa. (WHO)
  • Between 2010 and 2016, the number of new HIV infections declined in most regions of the world, but remained the same in Latin American and climbed by 60 percent in Eastern Europe and central Asia. (United National programme on AIDS)
  • There are about 5,000 new HIV infections a day across the globe. Of those, about 400 are children under the age of 15. (UNAIDS)
  • Worldwide the adult populations at greatest risk of HIV infection are female sex workers, people who inject drugs, and men who have sex with men. (UNAIDS)
  • HIV remains a significant health problem in the developed world. In 2016, 2.1 million people were living with the disease, 73,000 were newly infected with HIV, and 18,000 people died in Western and Central Europe and in North America. (UNAIDS)
  • Only 70 percent of those infected with HIV know their status. (WHO)
  • Globally, about 54 percent of adults and 43 percent of children living with HIV are receiving lifelong antiretroviral therapy. About 76 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women now receive antiretroviral medicines to prevent transmission of the virus to their babies. (UNAIDS)
  • AIDS and Respiratory Disease
  • Shortly after it emerged, HIV/AIDS fueled a global resurgence of tuberculosis that continues in many low- and middle-income countries. HIV infection is the strongest risk factor for progressing from latent to active TB. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • People living with HIV are twice as likely to die during TB treatment compared with TB patients who are HIV-negative. (UNAIDS)
  • In 2015, 400,000 died of AIDS-related TB, making it the leading cause of death among those with HIV. (UNAIDS)
  • In 2015. 57 percent of HIV-associated TB cases went untreated. (UNAIDS)
  • Those infected with HIV are also at greater risk of dying from pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia (PCP) and appear more likely to develop lung cancer, dyspnea, and COPD. (Proceedings of the American Thoracic Society)

The FIRS Response

The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) calls on governments, health care programmes, clinicians, public health specialists, and non-government organizations to strengthen their responses to HIV/AIDS by:

  • Increasing awareness of the continuing global threat of HIV-related disease and its connection to TB and other respiratory diseases.
  • Improving HIV education of at-risk communities to reduce the incidence of new HIV infections and decrease health disparities.
  • Reducing the incidence and severity of HIV-related disease by strengthening mother-to-child transmission prevention programmes and increasing the early use of antiretroviral therapy.
  • Ending HIV-associated TB through TB infection control, preventive therapy, and widespread use of antiretroviral therapy.
  • Adequately funding research into improved treatments for both HIV and TB.

About the Forum of International Respiratory Societies

The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is an organization consisting of the world's leading international respiratory societies working together to improve lung health globally: the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), American Thoracic Society (ATS), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), Asociación Latinoamericana De Tórax (ALAT), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union), Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS), Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), and Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). The goal of FIRS is to unify and enhance efforts to improve lung health through the combined work of its more than 70,000 members globally. Learn more at firsnet.org.