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HIV and Tuberculosis (TB).

  • What is tuberculosis?

  • How does TB spread from person to person?

  • What is the connection between HIV and TB?

  • How common is HIV/TB coinfection?

  • Should people with HIV get tested for TB?

  • What are the symptoms of TB?

  • What is the treatment for TB?

What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious disease that can spread from person to person. TB is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The TB bacteria spread in the air.

TB usually affects the lungs. But TB-causing bacteria can attack any part of the body, including the kidneys, spine, or brain. If not treated, TB can cause death.


How does TB spread from person to person?

A person with TB disease of the lungs or throat can spread droplets of TB bacteria in the air, particularly when they cough or sneeze. People who breathe in the TB bacteria can get TB.

Once in the body, TB can be inactive or active. Inactive TB is called latent TB. Active TB is called TB disease. The image below shows the difference between latent TB and TB disease.


What is the connection between HIV and TB?

TB is an opportunistic infection (OI). OIs are infections that occur more often or are more severe in people with weakened immune systems than in people with healthy immune systems. HIV weakens the immune system, increasing the risk of TB in people with HIV.

Infection with both HIV and TB is called HIV/TB coinfection. Latent TB is more likely to advance to TB disease in people with HIV than in people without HIV. TB disease may also cause HIV to worsen.

Treatment with HIV medicines is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART protects the immune system and prevents HIV infection from advancing to AIDS. In people with HIV/TB coinfection, ART reduces the chances that latent TB will advance to TB disease.


How common is HIV/TB coinfection?

TB disease is one of the leading causes of death among people with HIV. Where HIV medicines are widely used, fewer people with HIV get TB than in many other countries. 

Should people with HIV get tested for TB?

Yes, all people with HIV should get tested for TB infection, preferably at the time of HIV diagnosis. If test results show that a person has latent TB, additional testing is needed. More testing will determine whether the person has TB disease.

What are the symptoms of TB?

People with latent TB don’t have any signs of the disease. But if latent TB advances to TB disease, there will usually be signs of the disease. Common symptoms of TB disease include:

  • A persistent cough that may bring up blood or sputum

  • Chest pain

  • Fatigue

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Fever

  • Night sweats


What is the treatment for TB?

In general, TB treatment is the same for people with HIV and people without HIV. TB medicines are used to prevent latent TB from advancing to TB disease and to treat TB disease. The choice of TB medicines and the length of treatment depend on whether a person has latent TB or TB disease.

People with HIV/TB coinfection should be treated for both diseases; however, when to start treatment and what medicines to take depends on a person’s individual circumstances. Taking certain HIV and TB medicines at the same time can increase the risk of drug-drug interactions and side effects. 

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