WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Whoopi Goldberg spoke about increasing efforts to fight tuberculosis and HIV co-infection on the closing day of the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. Friday morning.
"We can do a lot," like focus efforts on vulnerable children and their moms and put them on preventive medicines, she said.
Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by the bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB infection primarily affects the lungs, but can also harm other organs.
M. tuberculosis can be dormant, or inactive, for a long time after someone becomes infected. Once the bacteria begin to divide and multiply, the infection is called TB disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, TB is not very common in the U.S., but it is among the leading causes of death for HIV-positive patients.
In 2010, about 1 in 8 of 8.8 million new TB cases also were positive for HIV, and roughly 1 in 4 of the 1.4 million patients who died from TB also had HIV, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Because HIV-positive people may have a comprised immune system, the odds they'll develop TB disease are higher. Having HIV can increase those chances 20-fold, according to a paper published in the scientific journal PLoS Pathogens.
"M. tuberculosis and HIV act in synergy, accelerating the decline of [the immune system] and leading to subsequent death if untreated," the authors wrote in the article. "The mechanisms behind the breakdown of the immune defense..are not well known."
Despite the challenges, Goldberg said that by investing in research, "we can save lives."
"We can find a little ant taking a poop from space," she continued. "We should be able to find a test...to save people's lives."
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-- DANIELA HERNANDEZ