NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fighting Malaria May Stop the Spread of HIV

January 26, 2004

Reducing the incidence of malaria in Africa could reduce HIV transmission from pregnant women to their children, say researchers. For the first time, a study of HIV-infected pregnant women has found that co-infection with malaria significantly increases a mother's risk of transmitting the AIDS virus to her baby before or during birth, according to a report published in the November 2003 edition of the journal AIDS.

HIV-infected pregnant women in the Rakai district of Uganda had nearly three times the risk of transmitting the AIDS virus to their babies if they concurrently had malaria and if the parasite that causes the disease had infected their placentas:

  • Forty percent of babies whose mothers had placental malaria became infected with HIV.
  • In contrast, HIV spread to only 15 percent of infants whose mothers did not have malaria in their placentas.

The authors conclude that trials are "urgently needed" to evaluate whether giving HIV-infected pregnant women preventive medicine for malaria can also reduce the transmission of HIV. The net gain would be that protecting women from malaria could help thwart the spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.

Source: Jon Cohen, "Mother's Malaria Appears to Enhance Spread of AIDS Virus," Science, November 21, 2003.

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