45 pc Nepalis have TB, says SAARC report

Kathmandu, December 15:

Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS are still major health problems in South Asia, which shoulders 28.3 per cent of the global TB burden and is home to 2.6 million HIV-positive people.

A report made public by SAARC Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Centre, at the inaugural function of SAARC Second Conference on TB, HIV/AIDS and Respiratory Diseases, today stated that 45 per cent of Nepalis were infected with TB, 60 per cent of whom are adults. Every year, 40,000 people develop active TB, of whom 20,000 have infectious pulmonary TB, resulting in 5,000 to 7,000 deaths.

The report adds that AIDS is spreading rapidly in all SAARC countries, often fuelled by high-risk practices such as sex work.

In Nepal, it maintains, the AIDS prevalence is low in general population but significantly higher among those engaged in sex trade and injecting drugs with contaminated needles.

Nepal is found to have 0.48 per cent HIV prevalence in adults, compared to 0.36 per cent in India. In Nepal, 70,256 adults are estimated to be living with HIV that includes 18,942 women. As of April, 11,234 HIV-positive had contracted AIDS.

Inaugurating the conference, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said the regional and national status of TB and HIV indicates critical health concern that had threatened security, productivity and economy of the region, Nepal in particular. He said the threat was higher among the youth, which was devastating.

The PM added that TB was basically poverty-related and should be integrated in the development agenda, with accelerated AIDS prevention programmes. He stressed on the need of regional partnership and collective foundation to combat the disease.

SAARC secretary general Dr Sheel Kanta Sharma said HIV and TB together made a deadly combination. “TB is curable and HIV preventable.”

“These two diseases have an unholy alliance. Stronger strategies should be formed

to tackle them,” said Dr Dirgha Sigh Bam, acting secretary, Ministry of Health and Population.