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Inexpensive Female Genital Schistosomiasis Prevention Could Help Reduce Women’s Risk Of HIV Infection

In this Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” blog post, Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, describes female genital schistosomiasis (FGS), which affects more than 100 million women and girls in Africa and “causes horrific pain and bleeding in the uterus, cervix and lower genital tract, not to mention social stigma and depression.” According to studies, women affected by FGS “have a three- to four-fold increase in the risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS,” but a low-cost drug called praziquantel may prevent FGS “and therefore also serve as a low-cost AIDS prevention strategy if it is administered annually to African girls and women beginning in their school-aged years,” he notes.

Hotez says Merck Serono has donated 250 million of the eight-cent praziquantel tablets, and private donors, USAID, and the British Department for International Development (DfID) “have begun to support programs of praziquantel mass treatment for schistosomiasis control.” He adds that he has “argued that large-scale AIDS treatment programs such as the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) should also embrace annual praziquantel treatments.” Hotez says “another added measure would be to develop a true vaccine to prevent schistosomiasis.” He concludes, “We may now be at the beginning of the end of this disease, provided we can scale up schistosomiasis control efforts in addition to making a successful schistosomiasis vaccine” (4/9).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.