Tuberculosis | Background

Damien Foundation Nigeria


TB and HIV: Frequent Partners in Crime

The TB treatment centre in the Jericho district of Ibadan has 25 hospital beds for patients with tuberculosis, all of which are occupied. “A good 20 percent of the patients also have HIV”, says Doctor Osman. HIV weakens the immune system and makes people more susceptible to other infections. In Sub-Saharan Africa tuberculosis is the most prevalent co-infection, and, in Nigeria too, TB and HIV are all-too-frequently partners in crime. Since 2013, 88% of the people diagnosed with TB have also been tested for HIV. Many have received preventive or antiretroviral therapy. These HIV inhibitors do not cure the infection, but suppress the virus to the point where the symptoms are not apparent

This is a huge step forward, but there is a long way to go. It has been estimated that just one third of the 1.5 million Nigerians who are in need of antiretroviral therapy actually get it. In other words, TB and HIV services must be better coordinated.

When combined with HIV, the mortality figures for TB are much higher. One explanation is that it is harder to diagnose tuberculosis in a patient who already has HIV. The clinical features are less pronounced and a traditional microscopic examination of the sputum cannot be performed if the patient is unable to cough up phlegm. Treatment for tuberculosis is often given too late, or not at all. These patients also have a very low resistance and can quickly succumb to other disorders or infections.

TEXTS: Wendy Huyghe
PHOTOS: Tim Dirven @T.Dirven for Damien Foundation

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