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Spotlight Series: HIV Stigma and Discrimination
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International News

Africa: Health Activist Warns That Women Caregivers Are at Increased Risk of Tuberculosis

April 7, 2009

African women who serve as primary caregivers of HIV/AIDS patients are neglecting their own health when it comes to tuberculosis, said Kenyan activist Dr. Pauline Muchina.

"Women and girls are bearing the brunt of caregiving for families living with people with HIV/AIDS," said Muchina, who focuses on women's health issues. But many women in sub-Saharan Africa have little knowledge of TB and how it is transmitted, causing them to be at risk of contracting the disease themselves or passing it on to family members.

A joint report commissioned by the World Health Organization, the World Bank and Harvard University finds that TB is responsible for the loss of 7 million to 8 million healthy life-years annually in women ages 15-44, compared with 3 million to 6 million healthy life-years from HIV and 2 million healthy life-years from malaria.

The UN report says women are more likely to delay TB treatment than men, in part due to disease-related stigma. "While men usually worry about loss of wages and capacity for work, women worry about social rejection from husbands, in-laws, and the community in general," it notes.

In addition to stigma, women infected with TB are susceptible to domestic violence, said Muchina. "We have seen cases of women who have been beaten by their husbands because they disclosed their status to them," she said.

"Women are often the primary caretakers of their families and they can't afford to divert the small family resources for their own medical care," Muchina acknowledged. But their key role in the family unit makes it all the more important for women with TB to seek early treatment, she continued.

Back to other news for April 2009

Adapted from:
Voice of America News
04.04.2009; Jackson Mvunganyi

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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