A new study asserts that a particular type of schistosomiasis may predispose women to contracting HIV. Researchers Downs, Mguta, Kaatano et al (2011) conducted a study within the villages of the Lake Victoria region of Tanzania, and found that female urogenital schistosomiasis (FUS) is associated with HIV infection.

The study entitled "Urogenital Schistosomiasis in Women of Reproductive Age in Tanzania’s Lake Victoria Region" builds upon previously conducted research in Zimbabwe where women who suffered from genital schistosomiasis were at greater risk for contracting HIV.

FUS is caused by the Schistosoma haematobium (S.haematobium) worm and affects approximately 45 million women living in sub-Saharan Africa. These worms infect the urine and genital tracts causing inflammation, discomfort, bleeding, and infertility. The Lake Victoria Region found in northwestern Tanzania bordering Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda has one of the highest prevalences of S.haematobium with 50-90% of schoolchildren infected.

The study conducted by Downs et al (2011) aimed to link S.haematobium and HIV infection, specifically among women of reproductive age who are at increased risk for HIV. Key findings and recommendations from the research are as follows:

  • FUS is associated with HIV infection and is most common among young women, especially in the Lake Victoria region of Tanzania
  • Within the affected villages, there are high rates of depression
  • Findings reaffirm suggestions made by the World Health Organization that treating FUS can help reduce HIV transmission among sexually active women in Africa
  • Treatment of FUS should be targeted to women between the ages of 18 and 29 years old, a demographic that is not currently the focus of treatment

Results from this research could lead to a major breakthrough in treatment of FUS, neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), and HIV. Identifying associations among diseases helps in developing strategies for treatment to save lives and improve the quality of life of endemic populations.

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