Rise in HIV cases increases likelihood of TB spread – experts
MANILA, Philippines — The continued rise in the number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases is causing an additional burden to the prevalence of tuberculosis in the country, according to health experts.
Since those living with HIV are 37 times more likely to develop tuberculosis, the likelihood of them transmitting the respiratory disease to another segment of the population also increases, Rontgene Solante, the former president of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, said on Wednesday.
“Most of these [cases] are also the ones that can transmit the infection,” Solante said. “If you have many vulnerable [persons] who have tuberculosis, then this can be another group who can transmit tuberculosis to another group of population.”
That’s why it’s important, he said, for everyone to have themselves tested for HIV so that if their results turned out to be positive they could either be given prophylaxis against tuberculosis or put on treatment if they have already developed the disease.
“People living with HIV and have tuberculosis but don’t know they have HIV are persons who can also rapidly develop AIDS because of tuberculosis,” he said. “This is because [the diseases] occupy the same immune cell that’s why they rapidly develop symptomatic HIV because of tuberculosis.”
Data from Epidemiology Bureau of the Department of Health’s (DOH) shows that in February there were 1,013 new recorded cases of HIV nationwide, which is higher by 142 cases in the same period last year.
Gerard Belimac, program manager of the Philippine National AIDS Council of the DOH, said that data from treatment centers showed that the prevalence rate of tuberculosis among HIV patients is at most 50 percent.
He explained that, with tuberculosis being highly prevalent in the country, it would be easier for the infection to spread, especially for those whose immune system had already been compromised.
The DOH estimates that there are around a million Filipinos with active tuberculosis.
Belimac pointed out that, like the prophylaxis given to HIV patients, those diagnosed with tuberculosis could also avail themselves of free medications for the disease as part of the Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course (DOTS) program of the DOH.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.