Background: The challenge of early tuberculosis (TB) infection among rural patients accessing highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in a resource-limited setting with high HIV and TB burden has not been fully quantified.
Methods: This is a retrospective study nested within a prospective study of 969 patients consecutively initiated onto HAART at the CAPRISA AIDS Treatment programme in rural KwaZulu-Natal between January 2007 and December 2010. Patients were screened for clinical symptoms consistent with TB using a standardized checklist, and routine clinical investigations that included sputum microscopy and chest x-ray diagnosis.
Results: Of 969 HIV-infected patients initiated on HAART, 173 [17.9%; 95% confidence interval (CI): 15.5 to 20.4] had active TB at HAART initiation. TB incidence rates were 3-fold higher in the first 3 months (early incident TB) after HAART initiation [11.5/100 person-years (py); 95% CI: 7.1 to 17.5] compared with 4–24 months (late incident TB) post-HAART initiation (3.2/100 py; 95% CI: 2.2 to 4.5; incidence rate ratio: 3.6; 95% CI: 2.0 to 6.4; P < 0.001). Immune status of patients at HAART initiation did not impact TB incidence rates in patients with CD4+ counts of <50 (5.3/100) and >200 (4.9/100 py; P = 0.81) cells per cubic millimeter. CD4+ count gains achieved 12 months post-HAART initiation were significantly different in patients with early incident TB versus late incident TB; P = 0.03.
Conclusions: Rural HIV treatment programmes in TB-endemic settings experience high rates of TB irrespective of immunologic status of patients at HAART initiation, or duration on HAART.