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The TB And HIV Connection

Is there a relationship between TB and HIV/AIDS?

Yes, there is a relationship between these two infections. The South African TB Survey estimated that around 58% of persons diagnosed with TB are also co-infected with HIV. We are seeing great improvements in terms of mortality and morbidity since the widescale up of universal test and treat in that fewer persons living with HIV die early due to TB complications.

What does that have to do with HIV?

We are still focusing largely on HIV because with early detection and treatment we know that the immune system improves. With stronger immune capacity, one is able to fight off opportunistic infections such as TB effectively. TB is one of our killers and often takes advantage when our immune systems are low. It is a chief opportunistic infection that thrives when we least expect it.

Symptoms of TB

If you’ve been experiencing sweating at night in bed to the point that your clothes get damp, coughing for more than two weeks, sudden weight loss and a sore chest whenever you breathe deeply or cough, then you should consider seeking medical attention to get tested.

How can we prevent TB?

There are two means of TB prevention currently in South Africa. The first one is the BCG vaccine that is commonly given to newborn babies in all our hospitals. This vaccine is effective against aggressive forms of TB and gives immunity up until seven years or so. The second strategy to prevent TB is by taking TB Preventative therapy (TPT in short) for the prescribed months. TPT is becoming advanced, and the length of treatment is gradually getting shorter. Persons living with HIV are encouraged to take TPT for a full course of twelve months. Family members or close contacts to a person diagnosed with TB need to be screened for active TB as well. We call that TB Contact tracing and screening. If they are found to be clear of TB, they will be given TPT as well irrespective of their HIV status.

What support can we offer so that stigma and discrimination are address?

Stigma and discrimination are cited as one of the reasons people are fearful to engage in treatment whether this is HIV or TB or even both. Intentional TB campaigns such as these ones provide light and added information to the public about TB and hopefully encourages them to shy away from calling people names or labelling persons living with HIV by their choices or circumstances.