There’s a particular gentleman at the AIDS 2016 Conference who causes a kerfuffle wherever he goes and I’ve witnessed his performance a number of times over the past few days.
At the end of every session he asks the lecturer “So, what are you doing about TB?”
It’s an AIDS Conference so most speakers are caught off guard when they don’t get a question about AIDS, but on Tuesday a speaker retorted “Well Anton, I didn’t know you were in the room, otherwise I wouldn’t have asked if there were any questions”.
I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that Dr Anton Pozniak finally got his own platform to speak in the plenary session.
He informed his captive audience that it’s all very good to treat HIV, but every year in Africa, Tuberculosis causes more deaths. He reminded us that our current TB vaccination is 95 years old and we need a new one.
Tuberculosis is diagnosed too late, with half the diagnoses made at post-mortem. HIV testing is improving, but we also need to be using a rapid test for TB. Whether it’s spitting in a pot or peeing in a jar, we already have the technology to test for Tuberculosis - but we need it to be quick, portable and affordable.
We know Tuberculosis causes significant morbidity and mortality for people living with HIV (PLHIV). We also know that using Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) by itself is not sufficient to treat Tuberculosis. ALL patients co-infected with HIV & Tuberculosis need to be treated by a combination of ART and anti-TB medications.
We cannot shorten the duration of Tuberculosis treatment to any less than 6 months using our current anti-TB medications. New drugs are being trialled and some appear promising, but we’re even trialling old drugs to see if they might possibly work for Tuberculosis too.
Nelson Mandela once said “We can’t fight AIDS unless we do much more to fight TB”, but Anton isn’t keen to stop there. He not only wants to fight HIV and Tuberculosis, but he’s keen to eradicate viral hepatitis too.
Anton's dream is for everyone with viral hepatitis to be treated, but this dream comes with a price.
Hepatitis B treatment costs ~$15,000 in the USA, but the estimated true cost is $36. Hepatitis C treatment in the USA costs ~$84,000, but the estimated true cost is $62. Affordable medication can truly change the lives of millions of people around the world, but that's not yet happening.
Anton urged everyone to communicate and combine efforts to provide integrated health services for people in need. Testing and treatment should not only be for HIV, but also for Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B & Hepatitis C.
We’re aiming to end HIV by 2030, but let’s aim to eliminate Hepatitis C and Tuberculosis too.
Anton closed his speech by saying that we need new 90:90:90 goals. We should aim for the cost of HIV treatment to be $90 per year, Hepatitis B treatment should be $90, and Hepatitis C cures should be $90 too.
NB - There was no kerfuffle at the end of his presentation as Dr Anton Pozniak wisely did not ask the audience if they had any questions.