Tuberculosis (TB) has now overtaken HIV as the world’s leading cause of mortality. There were about 10.4 million TB cases in 2016, despite the fact that TB is an old and often curable disease whose incidence declined in industrialized countries long before the introduction of the TB vaccine and anti-TB drugs. TB continues to disproportionately affect low-income countries. For those of us who work in public health, this is tragic — we ought to be moving forward at a much faster pace to end TB for good.
What will it take to get to zero? The search for answers to this question will be a major focus of this week’s International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa, the largest gathering of its kind on the continent. In Zambia, while we are still a long way off from zero, we have made monumental progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Since May 2009, the Zambia Prevention, Care and Treatment Partnership (ZPCT II) project, with support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), has both strengthened and expanded access to quality HIV/AIDS services in Zambia. In close partnership with the Government of Zambia, the project operates in six provinces (Central, Copperbelt, Northwestern, Luapula, Northern and Muchinga), supporting services in 60 percent of the nation’s districts and nearly 50 percent of the government health centers in the supported provinces.
ZPCT II provides a comprehensive package of HIV/AIDS services that is improving the health and well-being of millions of people living in Zambia. Services include HIV testing and counseling, prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, clinical care, male circumcision and antiretroviral therapy, which are supported by strengthened laboratory and pharmaceutical systems. Nearly 40 percent of Zambians receiving antiretroviral therapy access these services at ZPCT II-supported sites. Over 2.9 million people have received counseling and testing services, and 70,000 men have been circumcised through the project. Over 870,000 pregnant women have received PMTCT services in ZPCT II-supported health facilities, which has greatly assisted the Government’s push to eliminate mother-to-child transmission.