Genital schistosomiasis and its unacknowledged role on HIV transmission in the STD intervention studies

Kjetland EF, Hegertun IE, Baay MF, Onsrud M, Ndhlovu PD, Taylor M

Journal title: International journal of STD & AIDS

Int J STD AIDS 2014 Sep;25(10):705-15

PMID: 24621458

Article on PubMed:


Treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has been hypothesised to decrease HIV transmission. Although observational studies show an association between STIs and HIV, only one prospective randomised controlled trial (RCT) has confirmed this. Female genital schistosomiasis can cause genital lesions, accompanied by bloody discharge, ulcers or malodorous discharge. Genital schistosomiasis is common, starts before puberty and symptoms can be mistaken for STIs. Three observational studies have found an association between schistosomiasis and HIV. Genital lesions that develop in childhood are chronic. This paper sought to explore the possible effects of schistosomiasis on the RCTs of STI treatment for HIV prevention. In the study sites, schistosomiasis was a likely cause of genital lesions. The studies recruited women that may have had genital schistosomal lesions established in childhood. Schistosomiasis endemic areas with different prevalence levels may have influenced HIV incidence in intervention and control sites differently, and some control group interventions may have influenced the impact of schistosomiasis on the study results. Schistosomiasis is a neglected cause of genital tract disease. It may have been an independent cause of HIV incidence in the RCTs of STI treatment for HIV prevention and may have obscured the findings of these trials.