DEADLY COMBINATION

"Prickautions"/ Love Carefully/ Aids Prevention Billboards carefully orchestrated in the South African Landscape/ Outside Jo'burg/ 4-2003

MORIJA - Medical workers are increasingly concerned that the lethal combination of HIV infection and tuberculosis might become the world's next major health crisis.

MORIJA - Medical workers are increasingly concerned that the lethal combination of HIV infection and tuberculosis might become the world's next major health crisis.

To mark World TB Day yesterday, Doctors Without Borders drew attention to Lesotho, which has the world's third-highest prevalence of HIV and the fourth-highest prevalence of tuberculosis. In Lesotho poverty and violence complicate treatment in a country where life expectancy is a mere 36 years.

Michel Sidibe, head of the UN Aids programme, fears that the double infection could become the next new epidemic.

"I'm calling for serious attention to TB, and serious attention to TB-HIV co-infection," he said.

In Lesotho some patients battling HIV and tuberculosis must walk five hours to reach a clinic for their medication.

"It is a problem for us to come to the clinic because sometimes there are gangsters waiting down by the side of the river ... and, yes, sometimes women are raped," said Tlalane Tsiane, a 21-year-old woman infected with TB and HIV.

Many men in Lesotho travel to South Africa to work on the mines and some return with HIV and a form of tuberculosis that is resistant to multiple antibiotics.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) believes drug-resistant strains present a major challenge to the global effort to control the disease.

Helen Bygrave, a medical coordinator for DWD, estimated that between 80 and 90percent of Lesotho's TB patients are infected with HIV.

There are nearly nine million new cases of TB worldwide and the disease kills more than 1,5million people every year, according to the WHO, though it can be cured with a six-month course of antibiotics. - Sapa-AP

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