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Health Experts Voice Concern over Prevalence of TB and HIV

Source: Vientiane Times

The epidemic of both Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV is a major public health problem in Laos with these conditions being the leading causes of infection and high rates of morbidity and mortality.

This was the main message at a Country Dialogue in preparation for a joint HIV and TB proposal for a grant request for 2024-2026 from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

The meeting took place on February 8 and was chaired by Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Snong Thongsna.
The workshop discussed the findings of joint HIV and TB multi-tablet regimen reviews and field visit reports, to generate evidence of what is working well and what needs to be re-directed in the future.

Participants reported on the progress of their activities and shared plans for strengthening TB and HIV prevention among targeted and at-risk populations, including testing.

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The high-risk groups for tuberculosis infection in Laos are people who are HIV/AIDS infected. They are 15 to 22 times more likely to develop TB than un-HIV-infected people.

Tuberculosis is a common complication of HIV/AIDS-infected people and is the leading cause of death in this group.

However, considerable numbers of tuberculosis patients are still not diagnosed and treated, meaning transmission is still ongoing in the community.

The grant request from the Global Fund aims to fund programs that align with global strategies to end HIV and TB.

These include assessing the progress of cross-cutting components building on other review findings such as the Health and Nutrition Services Access Project evaluation to recommend high-impact approaches and interventions.

An integral part of planned programs is to strengthen the quality of information systems and the efficient use of information in planning to follow up on tasks and services efficiently.

It is seen as important to advocate for all stakeholders to ensure that all suspected cases of TB and HIV have access to health facilities, rapid diagnosis, and affordable treatment immediately. 

The new 2023 national targets are in line with World Health Organisation guidelines and should help the government, health workers, civil society and all other partners fulfill Laos’ commitments.

In 2022, a special focus was placed on maintaining essential tuberculosis services in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Health envisions a generation free of tuberculosis infection and has endorsed the milestones and targets of the WHO End TB Strategy and Sustainable Development Goals for a world free of tuberculosis, zero deaths, disease, and suffering due to tuberculosis by 2030.