A Simple Theory, and a Proposal, on H.I.V. in Africa

A Simple Theory, and a Proposal, on H.I.V. in Africa

A resident of Cape Town, South Africa, recounts the struggles of living with HIV. (AP Image)
A resident of Cape Town, South Africa, recounts the struggles of living with HIV. (AP Image)

(New York Times) – OTIMATI, South Africa — While around the world a vast majority of AIDS victims are men, Africa has long been the glaring exception: Nearly 60 percent are women. And while there are many theories, no one has been able to prove one.

In a modest public health clinic behind a gas station here in South Africa’s rural KwaZulu/Natal Province, a team of Norwegian infectious disease specialists think they may have found a new explanation.

It is far too soon to say whether they are right. But even skeptics say the explanation is biologically plausible. And if it is proved correct, a low-cost solution has the potential to prevent thousands of infections every year.

The Norwegian team believes that African women are more vulnerable to H.I.V. because of a chronic, undiagnosed parasitic disease: genital schistosomiasis (pronounced shis-to-so-MY-a-sis), often nicknamed “schisto.”

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