Reports show that women are at a higher risk than men of contracting and dying of
tuberculosis. According to the International Union against TB and Lung disease, TB kills more women than
all other causes of maternal mortality combined. Over 900 million women are
infected with TB worldwide.
The World Health Organization (WHO) 2009 Global TB Control Report
released last week at the 3rd Stop TB Partners' Forum in Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil shows that in 2007, there were 1.37 million estimated
new TB cases among HIV-infected people and 456,000 deaths worldwide.
Dr. Pauline Muchina of Kenya is an activist
on women’s health issues. She worries that such figures do not show the full effect
of the disease on African women. Muchina says
thousands of women who are the primary caretakers of AIDS patients are at the
risk of contracting tuberculosis. “In the HIV epidemic era,” she says, “women
and girls are bearing the blunt of care giving for families living with people
Most of the
women in sub-Saharan countries have had no training on how to handle people
with TB. They are at risk of contracting the disease themselves and passing it
on to their family members.
The new report
from the UN says women are likely to wait longer than men before they seek medical
attention because of many factors, including the social stigma attached to TB.
says, “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.” Muchina adds that in addition to the stigma, women are victims of
violence: “We have seen cases of women who have been beaten by their husbands
because they have declared their status to them.
often the primary caretakers of their families and they can’t afford to divert
the small family resources for their own medical care. “Because of their care
giving nature, they want to take care of their families first...” Muchina says.
She encourages women to seek
medical treatment as early as possible because the livelihood of the family depends
on it. She says “Health is paramount if they are to continue providing care to