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Treating Schistosomiasis Among Women In Africa Could Help Prevent HIV Infection, Researcher Says

“Over the years I have written a lot (and beaten the drum pretty hard) about the importance of female genital schistosomiasis (FGS), its devastating effects on young women, and its key role in promoting HIV/AIDS transmission in Africa,” Peter Hotez, co-editor in chief of PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, writes in the PLOS “Speaking of Medicine” blog. He estimates between 20 million and 150 million women in Africa are affected by FGS, and he writes, “The very good news is that FGS could potentially be prevented if we reach girls and treat them early enough in life with praziquantel.” Hotez describes “a paper just out in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases [that] gives us compelling reasons to recast schistosomiasis [mass drug administration (MDA)] as a back door AIDS prevention strategy,” and he adds, “It is more cost-effective than antiretroviral therapy as a means to prevent new HIV infections.” He continues, “For me, a key take home message is that the major organizations committed to HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa, such as PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, as well as the ONE Campaign, must embrace schistosomiasis MDA and support its expansion throughout the affected areas of Africa in order to prevent or reduce the burden of FGS” (8/1).