There is solid evidence that patients infected with tuberculosis are likely to test positive for HIV, according to infectious disease expert Dr Edsel Salvaña, of the National Institutes of Health under the University of the Philippines.

Statistics have shown that TB is one of the leading causes of death of persons living with HIV. In 2015, 400,000 people infected with both TB and HIV died, in addition to those who succumbed to the pulmonary condition alone.

Speaking at the 47th National Convention of the Philippine College of Physicians, Dr Salvaña said a person with HIV was likely to develop the pulmonary condition.

“Someone with HIV has a 24- to 28-fold increased risk of developing active tuberculosis,” the director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in UP pointed out. They also have a 15 percent cumulative yearly risk for developing active TB. “So by the time a person has had HIV for six years, their risk for having active TB is actually 90 percent.”

The danger in having a co-infection is that each disease helps in the progression of the other. An individual found to have the latent TB bacteria is at risk of developing this into active tuberculosis, eventually, helping speed the progress of HIV into AIDS.

Given that there is a new, more aggressive HIV strain where progression is a mere four to five years, compared to the original strain that takes 8 to 10 years to progress, it becomes even more crucial to test those already suffering from the respiratory disease for the virus.

Among the opportunistic infections, TB occurs earlier in someone already infected with HIV.
This makes the risk of death twice that for those positive for the virus but has not been infected with TB.

In a study conducted at the Philippine General Hospital, researchers found the prevalence of HIV in TB patients was at 3.7 percent, so regardless of risks, that is more than .01 percent, thus Dr Salvaña stressed that all TB patients must be tested for HIV especially in highly urbanized areas.

“It is why we are encouraging anybody who has TB to get tested for HIV, not because we’re thinking about risk factors, but because of the danger for patients with HIV to develop TB.”

Individuals with latent TB normally takes years for it to become active, but the presence of HIV means it can develop in just weeks or months. Aside from getting infected with the respiratory condition, an HIV positive individual also increases the risk of infecting more people with TB

Dr Salvaña reiterated that early diagnosis translates to early treatment and helping save lives because antiretroviral therapy usually results in being able to lead productive leads and even help restore life expectancy.

“This means you will die WITH HIV, but not die OF HIV,” he declared. MIMS

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