Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease affecting more than 250 million people worldwide – despite the scale of infection and the existence of a cheap and effective treatment, this disease of poverty and its patients remain highly neglected.

Schistosoma haemotobium egg Image/CDC
Schistosoma haemotobium egg

Now, researchers have established a strong link between a genital form of schistosomiasis and a highly increased risk of contracting HIV, particularly in young women. Indeed, lesions caused by Female Genital Schistosomiasis (FGS) could increase up to four-fold the risk of young women and teenagers contracting HIV when they become sexually active.

What is schistosomiasis?

Conversely, a proven and inexpensive treatment for schistosomiasis (which is donated to the World Health Organization) could drastically decrease the risk of new infections in regions where both HIV and the parasite Schistosoma haematobium are endemic. Treating for schistosomiasis early on in a patient’s life could become an important strategy in sharply reducing HIV transmission.

Read the ISNTD Disease Brief: “Female Genital Schistosomiasis: the Most Neglected Gynaecological Disease”