This past Saturday, December 1, marked the 24th annual World AIDS Day. Dating back to 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health awareness day. Since 2011 World AIDS Day has been focused on a new theme: “Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, zero AIDS related deaths.” Building on this theme, it is important to note the high rates of co-infection between neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and HIV/AIDS.
The presence of NTDs can impact the progression or initial infection of the disease. For example, a particular type of schistosomiasis, known as female genital schistosomiasis (FGS) has unique repercussions for women and their reproductive health. More than 100 million women and young girls in Africa potentially suffer from this form of schistosomiasis, which causes painful legions. These legions provide channels for the HIV virus to infect a woman with FGS. This can lead to a threefold increase in contracting HIV/AIDS.
Furthermore, intestinal worms burden the immune system resulting in a decreased response to T-cell treatment in individual infected with worms.
In response to the hazardous connection between NTDs and HIV/AIDS, the Global Network co-chaired a panel at the 2012 International AIDS Conference. The panel, entitled “Effective Solutions to Combat HIV: Increasing Evidence of the Impact of Neglected Tropical Disease on HIV Transmission and Disease Progression”, addressed the need for the two global health communities to work together in order to increase the efficiency and impact of these programs.
To read more about the link between NTDs and HIV/AIDS, go to the Huffington Post article The 8 Cent Solution to Improving Women’s Health in Africa written by Sabin president, Dr. Peter Hotez.