Tuberculosis is an airborne disease which commonly affects the lungs; when a person is infected with Tuberculosis; the bacillus enters the lungs, and can remain there for a long time, surrounded by the body defenses without manifesting itself. TB is transmitted through coughing, sneezing, spitting or speaking. However TB can affect other body parts (the brain, the bones and abdomen amongst others) this is called extra pulmonary TB, extra pulmonary TB mostly affects people living with HIV, because of their weakened immune system.
HIV reduces the body defenses thus allowing the tuberculosis bacillus to develop and progress to active disease.
Some symptoms of TB include loss of weight and appetite, fatigue, night sweats and coughing up blood or sputum. Not every individual exposed to the tuberculosis bacteria develops TB disease, some individuals are infected with the bacterium which lies dormant in their lungs, and the TB becomes activated if a person's immune system is compromised, as occurs with HIV infection.
In countries where has a dramatically high TB and HIV prevalence, resulting in plenty people living with compromised immune systems, the combination of TB and HIV can become deadly for persons living with HIV.
Research worldwide has shows that people living with HIV and AIDS often die within months of contracting TB, unless intervention is rapid. Their already weak immune systems become further weakened and unable to fight both diseases. However, with early diagnosis of both conditions, this need not be the case.
HIV negative people with dormant TB have a 10% chance of developing active TB during their lifetime.
TB can be cured for HIV positive and negative persons, through a six month course of treatment to which patients must rigorously adhere. Resistance occurs should a patient fail to adhere to their treatment causing MDR-TB (multi-drug resistant TB) or XDR-TB (extensively drug resistant TB).
A skin test can be conducted to detect if a person has dormant or active TB. A protein from the TB bacteria is injected into the skin of the arm, if this causes a swelling, it indicates that the person has been exposed to TB and therefore cannot access preventative therapy (Isoniazid, also known as IPT or INH). However this swelling does not always appear in HIV positive people and as a result people are diagnosed later, delaying access to treatment, increasing the chances of developing active TB and infecting others.