Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 25: Tuberculosis

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HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Chapter 25: Tuberculosis


a woman taking pills while another woman watches


With proper treatment, TB can almost always be cured.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious disease that usually affects the lungs. TB spreads easily in crowded conditions—for example, in cities, slums, refugee camps, factories, and office buildings—especially in indoor areas where the air does not move much. About 2.3 billion people (⅓ of the world's population) have been infected with TB and carry the TB germ in their bodies. But only 14 million people are actually sick with TB right now.

TB is especially dangerous for people with HIV/AIDS. TB makes HIV disease progress faster, and HIV weakens the immune system and allows people with TB infection to develop TB sickness faster.

Women and TB

TB affects both men and women, but fewer women get treatment. Nearly 2000 women die every day from TB, and many die because they never knew they had the disease, they did not receive proper treatment, or they also had HIV. It can be more difficult for a woman to get health care to cure TB because she may not be able to leave her family and work, or does not have the money to travel to a clinic. In some places a woman may not seek treatment because she fears her husband will reject her as 'sickly' or too weak to do her work. A woman who works outside the home may be afraid she will be dismissed because her employer thinks she will infect others. Caring for sick family members also puts a woman at greater risk of becoming infected with TB.


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