Nuclear Techniques Help Find Solutions in Fight Against HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis

Nuclear and molecular techniques help Member States to manage and control HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA

HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) are among the leading global health issues and a challenge confronting the international community. Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that, by the end of 2012, around 35 million people were living with HIV and about 8 million people were newly infected by TB. The dire consequences of these diseases were reflected by almost 2 million people dying from HIV/AIDS in 2012, and a little over 1 million dying from TB in the same year. The majority of TB and HIV/AIDS cases occur in resource-poor countries where disease management needs swift coordinated international attention and support.

The emergence of drug-resistant strains of TB and HIV has further complicated the situation. These strains are now found in nearly every country worldwide and are more difficult and costly to manage.

The IAEA continues to work diligently to combat HIV/AIDS and TB in partnership with other international organizations. In cooperation with WHO, the African AIDS Vaccine Programme and UNAIDS, the IAEA has helped to build disease management capacity in Member States. These partnerships have provided equipment and training focused on using nuclear techniques to detect and monitor the spread of disease.

Nuclear techniques provide a cost-effective method for managing and controlling diseases like HIV/AIDS and TB. Isotope techniques can be used to evaluate TB or HIV infections in people, as well as provide early detection of drug-resistant strains and test the effectiveness of new drug treatments. Such techniques are also used to generate data that helps Member States monitor and promote appropriate intervention programmes for minimising the likelihood of disease transmission or reoccurrence.

Support to Member States on these critical health issues are provided through the IAEA's technical cooperation projects and coordinated research activities. Several of these projects and research activities focus on a variety of approaches for advancing molecular and nuclear techniques for controlling HIV/AIDS and TB, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

These important mechanisms foster knowledge and expertise sharing across Member States and facilitate a range of internationally collaborative work supporting the mandates of the IAEA Statute, from research and development of nuclear techniques to practical and peaceful applications of nuclear technologies and isotope techniques in the field.

Background

HIV/AIDS - Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that targets the immune system and weakens the body's ability to fight infections and diseases that many healthy people can fight off. It is transmitted through the exchange of certain body fluids with an infected individual (blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal secretions). Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the most advanced stage of the HIV infection and can take 2 to 15 years to develop. It is defined by the development of severe clinical manifestations of certain infections, diseases and cancers.

Tuberculosis (TB) - a curable and preventable disease caused by a bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affects the lungs. It is spread from person to person through the air. Persons with a compromised immune system are at a much higher risk of contracting the illness.

Last update: 27 October 2014