Washington: In Africa, malaria has rendered half a billion people sick and one million dead, especially children. This continent is also grappling with the largest number of HIV sufferers, estimated at 24.7 million in sub-Saharan Africa. The latest UN communiqué reported that 2 million people succumbed to the disease this year.
University of Washington researchers have made a valid point in suggesting that malaria and HIV are indeed 'partners in crime', for people suffering HIV have weakened immune systems, susceptible to malaria and vice versa.
Trying to evaluate the damage during the last twenty years, researchers said, the effects of the disease have translated into many thousands of HIV infections and million occurrences of malaria in just one portion of Kenya. Therefore the epidemic needs a double-edged combating strategy.
Scientists have always nurtured a hunch that the two diseases inspire one another to thrive. The new study shows how the attraction is fatal for the people living in the malaria -HIV endemic areas.
An insight into the ominous link; It is well known that HIV spreads when the virus level is high in the patient's blood stream. When a patient suffers malaria, the level of the virus rises seven times. This increased count of virus may be present for six to eight weeks. Any sexual activity during this time creates an ambient opportunity for the spread of HIV infection. Further HIV patients suffer weakened immune systems and are hence vulnerable to malarial bouts.
In the light of this connection between malaria and HIV, it is imperative to educate people about the importance of abstaining from sex for eight weeks following a malarial fever, which would considerably lower HIV spread, though researcher's are not sure if this would be a pragmatic solution.
Researchers suggest that all anti-malarial initiatives must focus on HIV patients as well, by providing them insecticide sprayed nets and other malaria treatments, and most importantly, educate to protect themselves from the deadly duo.