Aids and TB have halved life expectancy in Swaziland

2010-11-19 08:01

Geneva – Twin epidemics of Aids and tuberculosis (TB) were ravaging Swaziland, halving life expectancy to 31 years, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) said yesterday, warning of a health crisis.

“The co-epidemic has contributed substantially to a halving of life expectancy within two decades – from 60 years in the 1990s to 31 in 2007,” said the Geneva-based medical charity.

Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world (at 26.1%), it said, adding that more than 80% of people suffering from tuberculosis were also infected with HIV.

It was also struggling with a growing number of cases of multiresistant tuberculosis, a particularly dangerous form of the disease that makes up 7.7% of all new cases in 2009 and 2010, Doctors Without Borders said.

“In a context where the HIV/TB co-epidemic threatens to wipe out generations of Swazis, translating political commitment into further practical action is more urgent than ever,” it warned.

“People are dying in large numbers, and tuberculosis is currently the main cause of mortality among adults,” said Aymeric Peguillan, the head of mission for Doctors Without Borders in Swaziland.

“As a result, many children are being made orphans and the adult workforce is declining.”

Doctors Without Borders noted that a million residents in the country lacked access to medical personnel and infrastructure to deal with the health crisis.

The medical charity called on authorities to decentralise health centres and eliminate bureaucracy surrounding the management of medicine supplies in order to provide a more efficient response to the emergency.

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