The link between tuberculosis and HIV

A co-epidemic

HIV and tuberculosis (TB) are so closely connected that their relationship is often described as a co-epidemic. In the last 15 years the number of new TB cases has more than doubled in countries where the number of HIV infections is also high.

TB and HIV statistics:

  • the two diseases are a deadly combination; they are far more destructive together than either disease alone
  • in developing countries many people infected with HIV contract TB as the first sign of AIDS
  • at least one-third of the 38.6 million HIV-positive people in the world are also infected with TB and are at greatly increased risk of developing TB disease (the active and contagious form of TB)
  • TB is the leading cause of illness and death among people living with HIV in Africa and a major cause of death in HIV-positive people living elsewhere. In some settings, TB kills up to half of all AIDS patients

As TB affects the entire community, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) can make a major contribution to national TB/HIV control efforts through the work of our community-based volunteers and staff. These activities complement the work of formal health systems by delivering care and support beyond treatment in clinic. 

Poverty makes successful treatment difficult

Poverty and poor access to services challenges the successful treatment of those affected by TB and HIV.

In some rural areas, the distances between home and clinics make it difficult for screening and drug collection. Many people find it hard to take drugs on a daily basis without sufficient food to go with them.

National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies integrate joint TB and HIV programming at community level, particularly in countries where a large number of people are HIV-positive.

Major obstacles: stigma and lack of education

Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers are trained to:

  • help people in their communities recognize signs and symptoms of TB
  • encourage people to seek treatment and support them until the treatment is completed
  • work to reduce the stigma that still exists around TB in many countries
  • encourage people with TB and those who have recovered from TB to volunteer in ongoing programme activities


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