People infected with HIV (the virus that causes Aids) are more likely than uninfected people to get sick with other infections and diseases. Tuberculosis (TB) is one of these diseases.
HIV weakens the immune system and TB thrives in a weakened immune system. Thus, each disease speeds the other’s progress:
- Someone who is HIV-positive and infected with TB is many times more likely to become sick with TB than someone who is HIV-negative and infected with TB.
- HIV is the most powerful known risk factor for reactivation of latent TB infection to active disease.
- TB is a leading cause of death among people who are HIV-positive.
About one-third of the 36 million HIV-positive people worldwide are also infected with TB, and it accounts for about 11٪ of Aids deaths worldwide. In Africa, HIV has been the single most important factor determining the increased incidence of TB over the past 10 years.
What is TB?
TB is a disease that usually affects the lungs. It sometimes affects other parts of the body, such as the brain, the kidneys or the spine. TB disease can cause serious health problems, including death, if untreated. TB germs are spread from person to person through the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, laughs or sings. TB is not spread by sharing eating utensils or cups or when kissing someone.
Difference between TB disease and TB infection
People with TB disease are sick from the large number of TB germs that are active in their body. They usually have one or more of the symptoms of TB disease like having a fever, coughing up blood and chest pain. These people may pass the germs to others.
People with TB infection also have the germs that cause TB in their body, but they are not sick because there are not as many of the germs, and the germs lie dormant (sleeping) in their body. They cannot spread the germs to others. However these people could develop TB disease in the future, especially if they are HIV-positive People with TB infection can take medicine to prevent them from developing TB disease.
What can be done if someone has TB infection?
Get the required tests and follow the doctor’s advice by taking the prescribed medicine. Today, both TB infection and TB disease can be treated and cured by medication.
It is especially important for people with both TB and HIV infections to take their TB medication. The HIV weakened immune system makes it much more likely for them to develop TB disease than people who are not HIV infected. TB is one of the few diseases related to HIV infection that is easily prevented and cured with medicine.
It is also most important to take the TB medication as prescribed. If not, the TB germs become resistant to the medication, that is, the medication is no longer effective. This leads to multi drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extensive drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB), which is extremely difficult to cure.
One of the best methods available in the fight against TB is the BCG vaccine that is given to babies at birth and repeated three months later. Therefore, make sure that your children and the children of family, friends and acquaintances are vaccinated against TB.
Tuberculosis is preventable and curable, yet many people still die from this scourge. To fight TB, the efforts of every South African is required. The government therefore asks each person to pledge that:
- I will go for an examination if I cough for longer than two weeks
- I will advise anyone who coughs for more than two weeks to go for an examination
- I will take my treatment until the end if I am diagnosed with TB
- I will help TB patients take their medication everyday
- I will ensure that my action does not stigmatise TB patients.
Our Employee Wellbeing Programme (EWP) is available 24 hours a day if you want to discuss HIV and Tuberculosis. Call us on 0861872862 or email us at
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