The incidence of HIV-TB co-infection is increasing in the western districts of Namakkal, Salem, Coimbatore and Erode and must be addressed immediately, V.K.Subburaj, Principal Secretary, Health, said.

The incidence was over 24 per cent in Karur, while globally, 15 per cent of people with HIV develop tuberculosis, he added. The government was trying to address this by increasing the special attention paid to these districts. The reason Tamil Nadu has not made significant progress in addressing TB-HIV is because it has not been integrated into the public health system. He was speaking at the launch of the Global Fund Round 9 programme for civil society engagement organised in the city by REACH on Wednesday.

The State will also consider a proposal to introduce a multi-sectoral approach within various health departments to address the issues posed by TB, its detection, treatment, cure and resistant strains. At the local level, the health inspectors have been instructed to be involved with and take responsibility for all diseases that occur at the village level.

Another problem is that the TB control units are small and suffer from manpower shortage. The government is trying to address that as well, by posting qualified personnel in the labs and PHCs.

Mr. Subburaj stressed that emphasis must be given on the need to stick through the course of the drug regimen, in order to avoid drug-resistant TB. What would be a six-month treatment period gets extended to two years, with more complications if drug resistance develops, he added.

Rajesh Lakhoni, Chennai Corporation Commissioner, said the tendency among persons detected with TB to go into denial first, leads to delay in taking up treatment. P.Kuganantham, Health Officer, Chennai Corporation, said the civic body intends to mainstream HIV and TB detection and treatment activities.

C.Udayshankar, State TB Officer said, the government is planning to start a 24-hour helpline for TB support in the State.

Nevin Wilson, Director, The Union - South East Asia, said the aim of the Global Fund Round 9 was to engage communities and community-based care providers to improve TB care and control. Sr. Anbarasi, representative of CHAI, and Vijay Edwards of World Vision also spoke.