Sputum tests

Sputum samples are used to diagnose active TB and to monitor the effectiveness of TB treatment. The sample is obtained by coughing up phlegm and spitting it into a small sterile container. Three to five early morning samples are usually required. If there is a problem obtaining the sputum, sometimes a fine mist of salt water is sprayed into the throat and this helps to bring up a sample.

Part of the sputum is stained and examined under a microscope to look for acid-fast bacilli (AFB), rod-shaped bacteria that can be seen and counted. A positive AFB smear indicates probable mycobacteria infection. A portion of the sample is also cultured. A positive AFB culture will identify the type of mycobacterium present.

A sputum test is usually ordered for anyone who has a persistent cough, is coughing up phlegm with blood, or has been recently exposed to someone with active TB infection.

If mycobacterium is present, the patient has infectious TB and needs to start treatment immediately. If hospitalisation is required, the person would need to be isolated in a room with negative air pressure.

Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.