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Sexually transmitted diseases, malaria, and tuberculosis and the HIV-1/AIDS epidemic in Africa

N. B. Please note that if you are outside North America the embargo date for all Lancet press material is 0001hours UK time Friday 21 June 2002

Lancet

The effect of HIV-1 on other infectious diseases in Africa is an increasing public health concern. In a review in this week's issue of THE LANCET, Elizabeth Corbett from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and the Harare Biomedical Research and Training Institute, Zimbabwe, and colleagues describe the role that three major infectious diseases-malaria, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and tuberculosis-have had in the HIV-1 epidemic. The high prevalence of untreated STD infections has been a major factor facilitating the spread of HIV-1 in Africa; with the synergistic interaction between HIV-1 transmission and genital herpes being of especial concern for control of both diseases. Increased susceptibility to tuberculosis after infection with HIV-1 has led to a rising incidence and threat of increased transmission of tuberculosis. Clinical malaria occurs with an increased frequency and severity in HIV-1-infected individuals, especially during pregnancy. As with tuberculosis, STDs, and other communicable HIV-1-associated diseases, the net effect of HIV-1 might include increased rates of malaria transmission across communities.

Elizabeth Corbett comments: "The HIV-1 epidemic in Africa has reached such an extreme magnitude that further major consequences are inevitable, and will include increasing difficulty in controlling other infectious diseases. One of the cruel ironies is that the severity of the African HIV-1 epidemic is in itself a direct reflection of the impoverished and imperfect nature of health care that preceded the epidemic, notably poor control of STDs. Improvements were made in infectious disease control in Africa during the last half of the 20th century, but to a limited extent that left endemic disease and transmission rates well above those of more-developed countries. HIV-1 has now so compounded this situation that it would take a massive scale of interventions to return regional health to pre-epidemic standards. Without intervention, however, public health will become more difficult and expensive to maintain since the incidence, transmission, and drug resistance of other endemic diseases are affected by HIV-1."

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Contact: Dr Elizabeth L Corbett, C/o Biomedical Research & Training Institute, PO Box CY 1753, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe; T) +256 391 397179; F) +256 343 03294; E) elc1@mweb.co.zw

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