Zimbabwe: Bilharzia Risk Factor for HIV

12 November 2019

A research conducted by the Ministry of Health and Child Care has concluded that people with bilharzia have a high risk of contracting HIV, 263Chat has learnt.

This was said during the stakeholders meeting for the feedback on the results of Impact Assessment of six rounds (years) of Mass Drug Administration for Schitosomiasis and Soil transmitted Helminthiasis in Victoria falls.

After conducting studies in relation to Schistosomiasis(also known as bilharzia) treatment, the relevant ministry has noted that people with bilharzia eggs in their reproductive system have high risk of contracting HIV through intercourse.

Schitosomiasis/bilharzia is an acute and chronic disease caused by parasitic worms. They are transmitted through contaminated water in areas of poor sanitation.

On the sidelines of the meeting, the Director of National Institute of Health Research, Proffesor Nicholas Midzi said females with Schistosomiasis have three times more chances of contracting HIV.

"We conducted studies in Shamva District, Mupfure area where 500 females were participants. Of the 500, 40 percent of them had presence of Schistosomiasis in their reproductive organs," Prof Midzi said.

In 2018, another study that focused on males from the same area was done where semen samples where collected.

"We noted that men with Schistosomiasis and HIV have a higher viral load than men with HIV only, "

"This is because when the worms move in the parts of the body, they leave wounds. The presence of these wounds in reproductive organs provides a good environment for HIV," added Prof Midzi.

The Director for Epidemiology Disease Control, Dr Portia Manangazira said the Ministry of Health and Education is doing all they can through the Mass Drug Administration to treat Schistosomiasis.

"We have raised awareness in notable areas and we try to do this when we have medication at hand so that we give people a solution to their problems," said Dr Manangazira.

"We have also teamed up with Higherlife hence we give awareness via texts in the affected areas," she added.

Schitosomiasis is prevalent in tropical and sub tropical areas especially in poor communities without access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

From the Mass Drug Administration impact assessment, Zimbabwe has done very well in eliminating transmission of Schitosomiasis.

Schitosomiasis declined from prevalence of 22,7 percent at baseline with a prevalence reduction of 78,3 percent.

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