Weekly Awesome Mozambique: PCVs Work to Reduce the Incidence of HIV/AIDS and Malaria Co-infection

photo credit: ILRI/Mann, Action for Global Health http://www.actionforglobalhealth.eu/blog/?p=928

The latest reported HIV prevalence rate for Mozambique was 11.5%, and some districts in the country still report rates in the mid-twenties. HIV/AIDS is a debilitating problem in Mozambique, especially when paired with, which is actually the number one killer in Mozambique, accounting for 29% of deaths. HIV and malaria seem to propagate and amplify each other, leading to worsened effects of both diseases in areas where both are present and interacting.

HIV positive people have the Human Immunodeficiency Virus in their bodily fluids. The level of the viral load (quantity of viruses in a drop of semen, for example) impacts the probability that HIV will be transmitted in a given exposure (unprotected sex, breastfeeding, sharing a needle/knife). The malaria parasite raises the viral load in an HIV positive person, which in turn raises the probability that this person will transmit the virus to someone else. A study in a high malaria area estimated that around 27% of new HIV infections were due to the high malaria parasite rate.

Repeated bouts of malaria seem to lead to faster progression into AIDS (HIV is the virus that attacks the immune system. It can remain dormant in the person’s body for months or years, during which time the person is HIV positive, but does not have AIDS yet. Once a person’s CD4 cells—immune system fighting cells—dip below a certain level, this person’s immune system is severely compromised and this person is considered to have AIDS). AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) doesn’t kill you, it is a state of compromised immunity and being more vulnerable to diseases like malaria, which ultimately kill you.

HIV infection compromises a person’s immune system, making them more susceptible to getting malaria, more likely to have adverse effects from malaria (such as anemia), and more likely to develop severe malaria or die from malaria.

[heading style=”1″]What PCVs are Doing[/heading]
All Health PCVs in Mozambique are funded by PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), and work primarily in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. Initiated in January 2012, Peace Corps/Mozambique malaria program aims to integrate malaria prevention activities into the HIV-focused activities that PCVs across the country are already do. The HIV/AIDS situation in Mozambique is precisely the reason that malaria activities must also continue to be scaled up: the dangerous effects of both diseases are only aggravated by each other.

Education PCV Ali Wolters has written a VAST grant to have screens installed in the 100 windows and 10 doors of the Guijá Secondary School where she teaches 11th and 12th grade English. This project aims to decrease the risk of malaria infection among the 1000+ students and teachers, especially those who are HIV-positive (estimated to be around 50% of this population) or pregnant, to increase school attendance, to increase knowledge of the dangers of HIV/AIDS and malaria, and to teach students new technical skills.

PCV Vicente Rodriguez is in the process of facilitating a project in which local activists will be trained in malaria prevention and then travel to six neighboring communities to teach community members, including pregnant women and HIV+ people, these lessons.

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