The connection between TB and HIV

According to research, people living with HIV are more likely than others to become sick with tuberculosis (TB). This is because HIV weakens the immune system, which makes it harder for the body to fight TB germs.

Amanda Ndlangisa spoke to Dr Bongile Mabilane, QI Lead for Anova and Public health practitioner about what impact TB has on people living with HIV.

In simple terms, what is TB?
TB stands for Tuberculosis. An infection caused by a resilient bacteria called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. This bacteria is a rod-shaped organism that can live in harsh exterior conditions. Once a person gets infected by this bacteria, they can either present with ‘Active TB Disease’ or they may have ‘Latent TB’. Both of these issues/presentations need medical treatment. Lastly, many people think that TB is only a problem to the lungs, but it can infect and stay almost anywhere in the body (a situation called Extrapulmonary TB)

What are some of the symptoms of TB?

Classic TB symptoms are: Persistent cough for more than two weeks, night sweats that make your pillow or clothes wet, unexplained weight loss, poor appetite, painful chest especially when you cough or take deep breaths

What impact does TB have on people who are living with HIV? 

TB is one of the many opportunistic infections associated with HIV. The good news is that once a patient is on treatment for HIV and their HIV stays suppressed, they reduce drastically the chances of having the most severe cases of TB. Other implications to note for persons living with HIV is that they can take 12 months of TB Preventive Therapy to further reduce chances of getting TB – this is called TPT in short and is available for free to all persons living with HIV

If I get TB, while I am HIV positive, will the medication not clash? 

Medication won’t clash because your doctors or nurses have well-written protocols that guide them on the latest treatment options for patients. Even if you are a child, pregnant or have other illnesses such as Epilepsy, High blood pressure or Diabetes Mellitus for example, there are drug combinations that can be tailored into your prescription so that you get the best out of them without making you sicker.

Please remember that TB is treatable and curable, even if you are HIV-positive. Visit your local clinic or doctor if you suspect you might have TB.

If you do not have access to a clinic or doctor, please call the Gauteng TB Hotline on 0800 428 8364, you can also download the Gauteng Digital Platform on Google Play and Apple Store.

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