Tuberculosis case fatality rates in high HIV prevalence populations in sub-Saharan Africa

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BackgroundTuberculosis is a leading cause worldwide of morbidity and mortality among HIV-infected people. The HIV era has seen a dramatic increase of the tuberculosis case fatality rate (CFR) in high HIV prevalence populations. Providing care for HIV-infected people must include measures to tackle this high tuberculosis CFR.AimsTo analyse the extent of the increased tuberculosis CFR in high HIV prevalence populations in sub-Saharan Africa, the reasons for this increase and the causes of death, in order to identify possible ways of tackling this problem.MethodsReferences were obtained by searching the MEDLINE on ‘tuberculosis', ‘HIV infection', and ‘mortality’ (MesH or textword). In addition, available data from National Tuberculosis Programme reports were reviewed.FindingsTuberculosis CFR is closely linked to HIV prevalence. Limited autopsy data suggest that death from HIV-related diseases other than tuberculosis is probably the main reason for the increased CFR in HIV-infected tuberculosis patients. Among HIV-infected tuberculosis patients, the higher tuberculosis CFR in sputum smear-negative and extrapulmonary than in sputum smear-positive tuberculosis cases can also be attributed to misdiagnosis of HIV-related diseases as tuberculosis. The adverse effect of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on general health service performance probably accounts for the higher tuberculosis CFR among HIV-negative tuberculosis patients in high prevalence populations than that in low HIV-prevalence populations.ConclusionTackling the problem of the increased tuberculosis CFR in high HIV prevalence populations requires collaboration between tuberculosis control and HIV/AIDS programmes in implementing measures such as improved health services, tuberculosis and HIV control services, preventive treatment for HIV-related diseases and anti-HIV treatment.

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