TB infection thrives on HIV levels

Zinhle Mapumulo

Zinhle Mapumulo

The lethal alliance between tuberculosis and HIV-Aids is hampering the fight against communicable diseases in South Africa.

Speaking ahead of World TB Day today, Professor Salim Abdul-Karim of the University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal said yesterday: "The co-infection of TB and HIV has created a new burden in the fight against killer diseases.

"As a result more and more people are dying of TB and HIV-Aids. The worst thing about co-infection is that it is difficult to treat both diseases at the same time. This is because the TB and HIV drugs interact with each other and some of them become ineffective," said Karim.

South Africa is ranked number five in the list of countries affected by TB, and it is estimated that 550000 people are infected, with about 66,4 percent of them HIV-positive.

"The reason we have a high number of people with the co-infection is because the HIV prevalence is high in the country. The two diseases thrive on each other. People with HIV have a higher chance of developing TB. This is because when a person is infected with the HI virus their immune system is weakened, making them vulnerable to infections. TB as an opportunistic disease takes advantage of the situation," Karim said.

In 2007, about 337641 South Africans suffered from TB and only 62,9 percent of them were cured. The previous year there were 341165 cases of TB and the cure rate stood at 54,9 percent.