Women & TB

2009 WOMEN and TB

8 March 2010 – On International Women’s Day, the world reflects on how to ensure equal rights and opportunities for women and girls. Tuberculosis, together with HIV/AIDS and maternal causes, are the three top killers of women of reproductive age worldwide. A new factsheet shows how women and girls are affected by TB, and how they are helping to stop TB.

  • In 2008, 3.6 million women fell ill with TB and 700 000 women died from TB including 200 000 women with HIV
  • TB is the third leading cause of death worldwide among women aged 15-44.
  • TB is the fifth leading cause of death worldwide among women aged 20-59 worldwide
  • TB is the fourth leading cause of death among girls and young women aged 10-19 in low-income countries
  • Once infected, women of reproductive age are more susceptible to developing TB disease than men of the same age
  • TB is a disease of poverty affecting vulnerable groups. The vast majority of TB deaths are in the developing world. More than half of all deaths occur in Asia and the greatest TB burden per population is in Africa
  • The ‘feminization’ of the HIV epidemic has meant a greater burden of TB among women.  A quarter of HIV deaths are linked to TB
  • TB can cause infertility and contributes to other poor reproductive health outcomes especially for those with HIV infection
  • Malnutrition and food insecurity can exacerbate the risk of TB disease; other threats such as rising tobacco use and diabetes among women, can also mean an increasing burden of TB
  • In most countries men carry more of the TB burden, however more women are detected with TB in some settings such as Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan and these conditions merit further investigation.
  • In some settings, women who become ill with TB may be stigmatized, discriminated against or ostracized by their families and communities
  • Cultural and financial barriers can act as major obstacles for women seeking care, so they may delay accessing care until illness is severe
  • Children are often forced out of school to care and work for family members if a woman relative is unable to provide or carry out family responsibilities.
  • Multidrug resistant-TB (MDR-TB) is far more difficult and expensive to treat. Patients may be required to undergo many months of difficult treatment which carries a heavy burden for themselves and their families
  • The Stop TB Strategy provides one powerful platform in advancing the health and development of women


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