Urgent Treatment of Bilharzia Crucial to Combat HIV Transmission


HARARE – A health expert has emphasized the urgent need for individuals diagnosed with bilharzia to seek early treatment, as severe stages of the disease can facilitate the transmission of HIV.

Image: Unlimit Health

In a recent interview, Professor Nicholas Midzi, the Director of the National Institute of Health Research, raised concerns about the connection between bilharzia (schistosomiasis) and HIV transmission.

Professor Midzi highlighted the specific impact of female genital schistosomiasis (FGS), a form of bilharzia that affects a staggering 56 million women south of the Sahara. 

He stated, "Female genital schistosomiasis affects up to 56 million women in sub-Saharan Africa and may increase the risk of HIV infection."

Research conducted by the Ministry of Health and Child Care has confirmed a significant association between schistosomiasis and HIV. 

However, due to the complexity of the data, a specific summary estimate for FGS could not be generated. 

Consequently, a research agenda has been proposed to further investigate the effect of FGS on HIV infection.

Schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease caused by blood flukes, is prevalent in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where it affects millions of individuals. 

The disease is primarily contracted through contact with contaminated freshwater sources harboring the parasite. 

When individuals are infected with schistosomiasis, they can develop open wounds known as bilharzia wounds, particularly in the female genital tract.

These bilharzia wounds serve as entry points for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), potentially increasing the risk of transmission. 

The presence of FGS, characterized by inflammation, ulcers, and lesions in the female genital tract, further amplifies this risk. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to address the treatment of bilharzia promptly to prevent the progression of the disease and reduce the chances of HIV transmission.

Furthermore, the World Health Organization (WHO) has implemented a policy of mass drug administration for schistosomiasis in affected regions. This strategy aims to reduce the burden of the disease and prevent new infections. 

By treating schistosomiasis on a large scale, the WHO's approach may go a long way in contributing to the prevention of HIV transmission associated with FGS.

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