The fight against tuberculosis has gained new challenges due to the HIV epidemic. Worldwide, tuberculosis is the greatest individual cause of death among people living with HIV.
Research shows that HIV-positive individuals who are infected by tuberculosis have a 20 to 37 times greater risk of developing the disease of tuberculosis than HIV negative individuals in the same country.
In 2015, there were 10.4 million new cases of tuberculosis in the world, and 1.2 million of these cases were HIV positive.
- One out of three HIV-positive individuals dies from tuberculosis.
- Only 55 per cent of tuberculosis patients were tested for HIV in 2015.
- Of all the patients who are sick with HIV and tuberculosis, 76 per cent live in Africa.
The population in the area south of the Sahara is particularly hard-hit by tuberculosis and HIV (co-infection). In some countries more than half of all the tuberculosis cases are diagnosed in individuals who are HIV positive.
It may be more difficult to diagnose individuals who are HIV positive and suffer from tuberculosis, and they more quickly develop serious illness. Because tuberculosis contributes so greatly to death among people living with HIV, it is very important that the fight against these two epidemics be viewed in the same context.
Testing of both patient groups for early treatment
HIV-positive patients must receive antiviral treatment (ART or ARV) for HIV as quickly as possible, so that their immune system will continue to function as well as possible. Good treatment for HIV considerably reduces the chance of developing tuberculosis. Therefore, it is important that there is universal access to HIV treatment and that all tuberculosis patients are offered an HIV test.
Correspondingly, it is important that HIV-positive individuals are screened regularly for symptoms of tuberculosis. If tuberculosis treatment is initiated quickly, advanced disease and contagion can be avoided. In countries with a high incidence of both diseases, the WHO recommends preventive tuberculosis treatment for all HIV positive individuals.