HIV re-infection reported among fishing communities in Uganda

20:36, September 06, 2010      

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Ugandan researchers have found dozens cases of HIV re-infection among the country's fishing communities, a possibility unresolved and explored for long in the academic circle worldwide, local media reported on Monday.

A study of HIV-positive people in fishing communities on the shores of Lake Victoria in central Uganda has found that more than a quarter have "recombinant" viruses that might threaten both treatment and prevention efforts, according to the New Vision daily.

Citing the IRIN, a UN news agency focusing on humanitarian stories, the paper said some of the recombinant strains may have been the result of "superinfection" which occurs when an HIV- positive person is re-infected with another strain of HIV.

Of the numerous sub-types of HIV circulating worldwide, A and D are the most common in Uganda and were found in most of the 117 men and women surveyed from five fishing communities in the two districts of Masaka and Wakiso.

Meanwhile, the study also found that 29 percent had "recombinant" forms of HIV called A/D and D/A - evidence that re- infection has occurred, which can increase the likelihood of drug resistance to antiretroviral (ARV) therapy if a resistant virus is transmitted and could also speed up disease progression.

Now researchers in Uganda are looking for interventions aimed at educating HIV-positive members of the fishing communities around Lake Victoria about safe sex.

"We are starting to see transmission of viruses that are resistant to some drugs and need to inform even those already infected not to engage in risky behavior to avoid superinfection," said Pontiano Kaleebu, director of the Basic Sciences Program at the Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute (MRC- UVRI) Research Unit on AIDS, which is conducting the three-year study.

The spread of recombinant forms of HIV could have implications for vaccines and microbicides developed to guard against only certain sub-types.

"We want to work with these communities and learn more in order to see how we can intervene, but also prepare for future research in vaccines and microbicides," said Kaleebu.

The researchers also planned to conduct further studies to look into the extra high HIV prevalence of 28 percent in these communities, four times the national average.

Uganda has succeeded in reducing the HIV prevalence from 30 percent in the 1980s, to the current national average of 6.4 percent by implementing the ABC strategy which emphasizes abstinence, faithfulness and condom use.

However, there are concerns the country is losing the HIV fight with evidence of stagnation in prevalence and rising new infections especially in married couples, which prompted the country's to adjust its strategies and launch fresh campaigns against AIDS.

Source: Xinhua


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