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Very many people are much confused with what TB & HIV co-infection really is and what it amounts to. If you are one of those people, this article will leave you smiling as we delve into all you need to know about TB & HIV co-infection.

For starters, an infection with both HIV and TB is what is referred to as HIV/TB coinfection.

It should be remembered that Tuberculosis is a serious health threat for people living with HIV. TB is one of the leading causes of death among people living with HIV, and people living with HIV are more likely to contract  TB.

So, there are 3 things to note;

  • Someone with untreated latent TB infection and HIV infection is much more likely to develop TB disease during his or her lifetime than someone without HIV infection.
  • Among people with latent TB infection, HIV infection is the strongest known risk factor for progressing to TB disease.
  • A person who has both HIV infection and TB disease has an AIDS-defining condition.

Latent TB Infection is when a person has the TB bacteria but is not sick. People with Latent TB infection can’t spread the bacteria and don’t even possess symptoms as the body, at the moment can fight the bacteria from growing. However, if latent TB infection is not treated, a person can develop TB disease.

TB Disease therefore, is when the TB bacteria become active since the body can no longer fight them or stop them from growing, and so they multiply. People with TB Disease actually fall sick, have symptoms, and can even spread the bacteria to another person.

For people whose immune systems are weak, especially those with HIV infection, the risk of developing TB disease is much higher than for people with normal immune systems.

However, people infected with HIV who also have either latent TB infection or TB disease can be effectively treated.

The first step is to ensure that people living with HIV are tested for TB infection. If found to have TB infection, further tests are needed to rule out TB disease. The next step is to start treatment for latent TB infection or TB disease based on test results.

Untreated latent TB infection can quickly progress to TB disease in people living with HIV since the immune system is already weakened. And without treatment, TB disease can progress from sickness to death.

Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options for people living with HIV who also have either latent TB infection or TB disease.

Look out for our next article as we dissect the different treatment options as indicated above.

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