Saturday March 24th is World Tuberculosis Day, a day which raises awareness about an old disease that still kills. As part of its campaign to promote early testing and treatment of children living with HIV, Caritas Internationalis also focuses on TB, which often affects HIV-positive children because of their weak immune systems.
Caritas calls on governments and pharmaceutical companies to develop “child-friendly” forms of medicines to fight both HIV and tuberculosis. Here are facts you may not know about TB’s impact on children:
- At least half a million children become ill with tuberculosis each year.
- Up to 70,000 children die of TB every year.
- In 2010, some 10 million children became orphans as a result of tuberculosis.
- TB in children is often missed or overlooked since the disease is hard to diagnose in children and symptoms often go unnoticed.
- Children living with HIV are far more likely to contract TB than those who are not infected with HIV.
- There is no accurate diagnostic test for pediatric tuberculosis.
- Babies who are living HIV should not receive the vaccine that prevents the most severe forms of TB.
- If the child is HIV-positive but TB-negative, the child should be given a medicine called “isoniazid” in order to prevent TB infection.
- When TB infection is present in other systems of a child’s body but not in the lungs (extra-pulmonary TB), the child cannot transmit the disease to others.
- Children living with TB may face stigma. For example, a woman from India did not want to inform the neighbors and extended family that her daughter was treated for TB; she was afraid her daughter eventually would not be able to find a husband.
The HAART for Children campaign, which advocates for children with HIV, has produced its own newsletter in English. Read more about helping HIV-positive children here (PDF).