Updated 04 January 2018

Diseases related to HIV

HIV weakens your immune system and increases your risk for secondary infection. It is therefore important to take note of related diseases.


Being infected with HIV weakens your immune system and places you at risk of contracting other infections. If you’re infected with HIV, you’re at particular risk of acquiring tuberculosis (TB) and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).


Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that usually attack the lungs. HIV predisposes you to develop TB and, at the same time, TB accelerates the progression of HIV disease. In South Africa, approximately 57% of people with TB are co-infected with HIV. The World Health Organization’s Global Tuberculosis Report
estimates that 73 000 people died of TB with HIV in 2015.

Because HIV and TB frequently occur together in Africa, it’s vitally important to be well informed about TB, to recognise the symptoms and to get treatment early. Someone with TB can spread the disease while talking, coughing or sneezing. If someone who is susceptible then inhales the droplets, they may become infected and develop TB, too.

Symptoms of pulmonary (lung) TB include:

  • Fever with chills
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of strength
  • A persistent cough that may or may not produce phlegm or mucus
  • Anaemia
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood

TB can be treated, but it’s critical to take every dose of medication for as long as it’s prescribed. Treatment usually lasts six months (in some cases, treatment may last longer).

Remember, if you’re living with HIV it’s important to keep your immune system as healthy for as long as possible.

Sexually transmitted infections

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is spread through sexual contact. People with STIs are far more vulnerable to becoming infected with HIV – the infection may create sores or breaks in the skin that makes infection with HIV more likely.

In turn, HIV-positive people are more vulnerable to acquire other STIs. If you have HIV, your immune system is compromised, which means your body will find it harder to fight off the infection. Also, if you’re HIV-positive and infected with another STI, you’re 3 - 5 times more likely than other HIV-positive people to transmit HIV through sexual contact.

The different STIs include:

If you test positive for an STI, you should get tested for HIV, and vice versa.


Ask the Expert

HIV/Aids expert

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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