Malaria accelerates HIV infection — study

Tamar Kahn | 08 Dec 2006
Business Day (South Africa)

CAPE TOWN — Malaria appears to be fuelling the spread of HIV/AIDS in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, according to a study to be published today in the International Journal of Science.

The results suggest diseases that are not sexually transmitted may play a role in the rapid spread of HIV in Africa, and imply that better treatment programmes for these diseases could help prevent more HIV infections.

Scientists have known for some time that malaria raises the viral load of an HIV-positive person tenfold, increasing the risk that the virus will be transmitted to a sexual partner. At the same time, HIV increases the risk of catching malaria, as the HI-virus suppresses the body's immune system.

Now scientists from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre and the University of Washington have modelled the interaction between the diseases in Kenya, and concluded that malaria may be an important factor in the spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.

They applied their model to a population of 200000 Kenyan adults in the town of Kisumu, on the banks of Lake Victoria, where both HIV and malaria were prevalent. They concluded that the interaction between the diseases was responsible for 8500 extra HIV deaths and 980000 malaria cases than would have occurred if there was no overlap.

They said tuberculosis or genital herpes may also help fuel the rapid spread of HIV in Africa.