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Commentary & Opinion
HIV, Malaria Prevention Methods Should Be Integrated, Editorial Says

December 18, 2006

HIV prevention has "seen two breakthroughs this month" in data indicating that male circumcision might reduce a man's risk of HIV infection, as well as the publication of a study that found "AIDS and malaria feed on each other with disastrous effects," a New York Times editorial says (New York Times, 12/18). Laith Abu-Raddad of the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and colleagues used a mathematical model to examine HIV and malaria coinfection data gathered in Malawi by James Kublin, a study co-author from FHCRC. HIV transmission occurs most easily when a person has high viral load. The study -- funded in part by the University of Washington Center for AIDS and STD and FHCRC -- found that malaria causes a sevenfold increase in viral load that lasts six to eight weeks. In addition, the study found that HIV-positive people are more susceptible to malaria because their immune systems are weakened. In regions where both diseases are common, HIV might be responsible for almost 10% of malaria cases, and malaria might be responsible for about 5% of HIV cases, according to Abu-Raddad. The researchers focused their work in Kisumu, Kenya, where they applied the mathematical model to determine that 8,500 additional HIV cases and 980,000 extra malaria cases during a 20-year period were the result of coinfection, Abu-Raddad said (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/8). One "important lesson of the study is that protecting HIV-positive people from malaria would also limit the spread" of HIV, the editorial says, adding that the study's findings also "should add extra urgency to the fight against malaria, which has always lagged far behind AIDS in both money and attention." President Bush last week hosted the White House Summit on Malaria, but the "fact that more than a million people, most of them under five, die each year from a disease that is easily preventable and curable speaks volumes," according to the Times. In addition, the study "sheds new light on why Africa's AIDS rates are so much higher than elsewhere" -- "Africans' health is poor, and they are more likely to suffer from diseases," including malaria and genital herpes, that "make HIV more transmissible," the editorial says. It concludes, "Donors eager to fight AIDS have shown less interest in improving Africa's health systems, training health workers and equipping clinics. The biggest lesson of the new study is that it is all one fight" (New York Times, 12/18).

A webcast of the White House malaria summit is available online.

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