“All my problems started with tuberculosis. I can say that tuberculosis destroyed my family since my father became ill… He was sick in the hospital a lot, my mom was by herself with no money… My family struggled, got in a lot of debt, which in a few years led to their not having a home… They were left on the street because of tuberculosis.” – Mariana, Bucharest, Romania

Credit: Tom Maguire

Credit: Tom Maguire

TB is the third leading cause of death among women of reproductive ages, namely between the ages of 15 and 44. Poverty is a major risk factor for developing active TB. As women account for 70 per cent of the worlds’ poor, women in developing countries are disproportionately affected by TB. In 2013,  510, 000 women died from TB according to WHO estimates.

TB places pregnant women and their babies at risk. Studies from Mexico and India have shown that pregnant women with TB are twice as likely to give birth to a premature or low-birth-weight baby and four times more likely to die during childbirth. All pregnant women should be screened for TB and provided appropriate treatment in high burden countries.

TB can have devastating consequences for women. Socially, the stigma of TB often falls more heavily on women than on men. TB also has a profound effect on women and their families. Women suffering from TB are often unable to care for their children and have trouble performing household chores. In addition, many women have jobs outside of the home to provide additional household income. Contracting TB leads to a loss of work and a loss of wages. A lack of political will, inadequate financing and intense stigma remain barriers to reducing the burden of TB among women. TB programmes should work to remove barriers to access, reduce delays and improve diagnosis and treatment of TB in women.

Click here to read the personal stories of Mariana and Alina.

To find out more about how TB affects women, we encourage you to read the report: Women and Tuberculosis: Taking Action Against a Neglected Disease