World AIDS Day is a time to reflect on the broader impact of HIV and its interactions with other infectious and chronic conditions that must be managed through an integrated health system. The past few months have yielded a variety of published studies on the HIV-Malaria link ranging from pharmacological, and physiological to health systems issues. A brief summary follows.
Having HIV does have consequences on malaria infection. Serghides et al. studied malaria-specific immune responses are altered in HIV/malaria co-infected individuals. Fortunately these researchers learned about “the importance of HIV treatment and immune re-constitution in the context of co-infection.”
Malaria, HIV and Pregnancy
Pregnant women are an important group in the population to protect from both HIV and malaria. The link between the diseases may not be one of influencing each other but in the fact that they both appear in the same population with similar negative consequences. Women are at increased risk of anemia in pregnancy due to malaria and/or HIV infection according to Ononge and co-workers. Normally a pregnant woman in a malaria endemic area passes on malaria antibodies to their newborns.
Moro et al. learned that, “Placental transfer of antimalarial antibodies is reduced in pregnant women with malaria and HIV infection.” Chihana and colleagues studied HIV status in Malawian pregnant women and follow-up their children. They reported that, “Maternal HIV status had little effect on neonatal mortality but was associated with much higher mortality in the post-neonatal period and among older children.”
Drug Interactions and Issues
Hoglund and colleagues studied interactions between common antimalarial and HIV medications. They found that, “There are substantial drug interactions between artemether-lumefantrine and efavirenz, nevirapine and ritonavir/lopinavir. Given the readily saturable absorption of lumefantrine, the dose adjustments predicted to be necessary will need to be evaluated prospectively in malaria-HIV coinfected patients.”
Drugs taken during pregnancy to prevent malaria are influenced by HIV status. It is known that Intermittent Preventive Treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine should not be administered to HIV-positive pregnant women taking cotrimoxazole prophylaxis. González et al. wanted to learn whether mefloquine (MQ) could be used by HIV+ pregnant women. Unfortunately they learned that, “MQ was not well tolerated, limiting its potential for IPTp … (and) … MQ was associated with an increased risk of mother to child transmission of HIV.”
Health Systems Issues
Haji and co-investigators reported that malaria care seeking was delayed in Ethiopia because “Children whose guardians believed that covert testing for HIV was routine clinical practice presented later for investigation of suspected malaria.”
The need to adjust clinical guidance and practice as prevalence of malaria changes was addressed by Mahende et al. in Tanzania. They observed that, “Although the burden of malaria in many parts of Tanzania has declined, the proportion of children with fever has not changed.” More accurate diagnosis is needed as demonstrated by the various causes of febrile illness they found including in addition to malaria, respiratory illnesses, blood infections, urine infections, gastrointestinal illness and even HIV.
Finally Mbeye and colleagues report that cotrimoxazole prophylactic treatment reduces incidence of malaria and mortality in children in sub-Saharan Africa and appears to be beneficial for HIV-infected and HIV-exposed as well as HIV-uninfected children. This lesson from HIV programming can have broader implications for malaria control strategies.
Integrated control of infectious diseases is essential for population health, especially at the primary care level. Hopefully research as shown above can assist in planning better services for people living in areas that are endemic to both malaria and HIV.