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World Health Stat Q. 1996;49(2):115-9.

Women and tuberculosis.

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  • 1Tuberculosis Research and Surveillance Unit, World Health Organization, Geneva.


Tuberculosis is the leading infectious cause of death in women worldwide. The disease poses a major threat to women's health security. Population growth, the HIV epidemic, increasing poverty and rising levels of drug resistance will inevitably increase the burden of this disease in women. Women are at increased risk of progression to disease during their reproductive years. However, in most low-income countries, twice as many men are notified with tuberculosis as women. Biological mechanisms may account for most of this difference but socioeconomic and cultural factors leading to barriers in accessing health care may cause under-notification in women. Tuberculosis control programmes should be sensitive to the constraints faced by women in accessing health care, in order to empower women to commence and complete treatment. The fear and stigma associated with tuberculosis have a greater impact on women than on men, often leaving them in a more precarious social and economic position. Tuberculosis in women creates orphans, impoverished families and reduces the economic development of society. Tuberculosis is a major cause of preventable suffering and death in women. WHO's recommended tuberculosis control strategy, DOTS, represents a cost-effective response to the problem of tuberculosis in women. Tuberculosis is a major women's health issue. It is a global health priority that tuberculosis treatment be made available to women, particularly to those in low-income countries who are bearing the brunt of this epidemic.

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