Projects: A Duel Threat
Worldwide, TB is the most common cause of death for those infected with HIV/AIDS. At 2.2 percent, Cambodia has one of the highest documented rates of HIV/AIDS infection in Southeast Asia, and also has a very high prevalence of TB: An estimated 65 percent of Cambodians carry the opportunistic virus.
According to the The Cambodian Health Committee, an estimated 100 patients in Cambodia have suspected MDR TB. There a likely many more than that who have not been located and diagnosed. The number of cases located is increasing as the infrastructure to treat it is built. Locating those suffering from the disease is a particular challenge; many patients avoid seeking formal treatment for suspected illness, and transportation to facilities from rural areas is difficult. In this environment, the potential exists for an exponential increase in those suffering from MDR TB given the high rate of HIV infection and malnutrition. In short, MDR TB makes the threat of TB and HIV in Cambodia that much more urgent.
Every three minutes worldwide, a person living with HIV dies of TB. In Cambodia widespread malnutrition, the highest HIV prevalence in SE Asia and a lack of access to treatment for both infections creates an environment where both TB and HIV are likely to increase. According to the WHO, it will take a long-term commitment on the part of both donors and government agencies to sustain and expand treatment integration for HIV and TB. For the thousands of people in Cambodia at risk of coinfection, this commitment cannot come soon enough.