Student Presents PhD Work at International AIDS Conference
Mr Kwabena Asare, a Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency/Health Economics HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD)-funded PhD candidate in Public Health and a Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) Fellow, presented his work at the 24th International AIDS conference in Montreal, Canada, which took place from 27 July to 2 August 2022.
The presentation was based on his first publication for his PhD studies which was recently accepted for publication in the Annals of Epidemiology. It describes the burden and factors associated with four curable sexually transmitted infections (STIs), namely Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis, Trichomonas vaginalis and Mycoplasma genitalium infection, among women living with HIV (WLHIV) in South Africa.
Asare highlighted the high incidence of STIs, with even higher re-infection rates among WLHIV, particularly among those of a younger age, poor HIV treatment status (low CD4 count or high viral load), increased number of sexual partners and those with bacterial vaginosis. He stressed that, since the women in the study were appropriately treated for each diagnosed STI, the high re-infection rates were probably due to continuing to have unprotected sex with infected male partners who remain undiagnosed and untreated. He added, ‘At this stage of the HIV epidemic where South Africa has recorded success in reducing new HIV infections and transmission rates through the roll out of antiretroviral therapy services, other infections and diseases still burden WLHIV and require attention.’
Asare recommended the following strategies to improve STI care and control the population burden, particularly among WLHIV:
• Early HIV diagnosis and antiretroviral treatment (ART) initiation should be combined with routine etiological based STI screening and treatment for WLHIV to prevent HIV and STI transmission.
• The acceptability, uptake and effectiveness of current partner notification strategies should be re-evaluated and innovative strategies like expedited partner therapy should be considered for implementation in high STI/HIV endemic settings in sub-Saharan Africa.
• Innovative studies are required to develop behavioural strategies aimed at improving safe sexual practices among young people, especially young women.
Asare is supervised by Professor Nigel Garrett (CAPRISA) and Dr Andrew Tomita in the School of Nursing and Public Health. Other co-authors affiliated to UKZN include Dr Sinaye Ngcapu from CAPRISA and the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences and Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Director of CAPRISA and UKZN Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research).