Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis

TB is the short for Tuberculosis, is a disease caused by bacteria that enters the body through the air and usually affects the lungs. It is spread through the air when a person with TB sneezes, coughs, speaks, spits, or sings. Anyone who breathes in this air can get TB. It is a serious disease but it can be cured. If you are living HIV and you have TB, you are said to be co-infect ed with TB.
TB is one of the most common diseases that affect people living with HIV. When your viral load is low and your immune system is weak, there is a very high chance of being infected with TB. But, if you start taking ARVs soon after testing HIV positive and adhere to your ARVs - there is a high chance that your viral load will be suppressed and your immune system will be strong and healthy, this will reduce your chances of being infected with TB.


How do you know you have TB?

Not everybody who has been infected with TB has symptoms. To find out whether you have TB, you will need to have a test at the clinic. To test for TB, you will be asked to cough out sputum or mucus which will be tested for TB bacteria. If TB bacteria is found in your sputum or mucus, you will start your TB treatment immediately. Sometimes an x-ray will be done to see if there is TB in your lungs.


Treatment for TB if you are HIV positive

Even if you are HIV positive, TB can be treated and cured by taking a combination of antibiotics that kill the TB bacteria in your body, but the treatment must be taken correctly for six months. TB treatment involves an initial intensive treatment regime which is a two-month course of a combination of four drugs: isoniazid, rifampicin, pyrazinamide and ethambutol. The second part of the treatment regime is a four-month maintenance course of isoniazid and ethambutol. When you are on TB treatment, your Healthcare worker will tell you the best way to take your TB treatment with your ARVs. You should know that TB treatment has some side-effects, but these will usually go away in the first few weeks. Common side-effects of TB treatment are:
* Feeling like you want to vomit;
* Feeling dizzy;
* Skin rashes;
* Pins and needles or burning feeling in feet;
* Hearing loss
* Loss of appetite;
* Feeling like you have flu or a fever;
* Jaundice [If you are one of the few people who get yellow eyes or skin (jaundice) see your doctor right away]


Even though there are side effects, it is important to take your treatment as prescribed by the healthcare worker and to go to the clinic for follow-up visits. Even if you feel better once you start your TB treatment, you have to finish your treatment course. Only your Healthcare worker can tell you when you can stop taking your treatment. Do not stop your treatment until your healthcare worker tells you to because you can develop Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB and XDR- TB) If you do not adhere to your treatment; if you miss or skip doses.


MDR-TB

By not taking some of the prescribed medicine, the TB bacteria in your body will learn how to trick and escape the medication used to treat TB and the TB in your body will become resistant to treatment. This means the TB treatment will no longer work to kill TB bacteria in your body and you will develop Drug Resistant TB. There are two types of drug resistant TB, multiple drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) and Extensively drug resistant TB (XDR-TB). These are very dangerous types of TB and they can be passed on to other people in the same way as TB. Because not everyone who is one TB treatment, finishes their course, more and more people are being infected with DR-TB. If you become infected with MDR-TB or XDR-TB, it is very difficult to treat them as treatment can take nine months to two years to complete or even longer if your do not adhere to your treatment. Also, MDR-TB and XDR-TB treatment regimens have more severe side effects because they are more difficult to treat. Adherence is important for TB treatment to be effective. It is also important to know that TB is highly infectious and can be deadly if not treated in time.