The role of antiretroviral therapy in reducing TB incidence and mortality in high HIV-TB burden countries

With the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals in 2016, all countries have committed to end the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic by 2030, defined as dramatic reductions in TB incidence and mortality combined with zero TB-induced catastrophic costs for families. This paper explores how antiretroviral therapy (ART) in high HIV-TB burden countries may help in reducing TB incidence and mortality and thus contribute to the ambitious goal of ending TB. ART in people living with HIV has a potent TB preventive effect, with this being most apparent in those with the most advanced immunodeficiency. Early ART also significantly reduces the risk of TB, and with new World Health Organization guidance released in 2015 about initiating ART in all persons living with HIV irrespective of CD4 count, there is the potential for enormous benefit at the population level. Already, several countries with high HIV-TB burdens have seen dramatic declines in TB case notification rates since ART scale up started in 2004. In patients already diagnosed with HIV-associated TB, mortality can be significantly decreased by ART, especially if started within 2–8 weeks of anti-TB treatment. The benefits of ART on TB incidence and TB mortality can be further augmented respectively by the addition of isoniazid preventive therapy and cotrimoxazole preventive therapy. These interventions must be effectively implemented and scaled up in order to end the TB epidemic by 2030.

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