In August 2005, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a tuberculosis emergency in the Southern African region - a crisis "requiring urgent and extraordinary actions", it said.
"However, what those strategies should be is not entirely clear, and much research is urgently required to better understand this," says Dr Stephen Lawn, a research associate and senior lecturer at the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, which is based in UCT's Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine.
It is precisely in this field that Lawn has been conducting his research, work for which the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) has now honoured him. The organisation, dedicated to the prevention and control of tuberculosis and lung disease in, especially, middle- and low-income countries, awarded Lawn its Union Scientific Prize for his work on HIV-associated TB.
Lawn received the prize at the IUATLD's world conference in Paris in early November.
Over the past two years alone, Lawn has co-authored over 30 articles on HIV, of which 20 concern HIV-associated TB. These have been published in journals such as The Lancet, AIDS, Clinical Infectious Diseases and the British Medical Journal.
"South Africa lies at the epicentre of the world's HIV/AIDS epidemic and the global TB epidemic," he says. "Both are highly inter-related, with HIV infection increasing an individual's risk of developing TB manifold."
The situation is being compounded by the emergence of multi-drug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant TB strains.
This raises a slew of important and interesting questions: What impact will antiretrovirals have on TB risk and TB control at the community level?, and what is the impact of this huge burden of TB on antiretroviral treatment services and on the clinical outcomes of patients accessing this treatment? Lawn and his co-workers at the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre hope to continue making progress in answering these and many other questions.
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