How Common is HIV and Syphilis Co-Infection in Ghana, Africa?

How Common is HIV and Syphilis Co-Infection in Ghana, Africa?

HIV and syphilis are dangerous enough when they appear alone, but even more dangerous when they appear together, causing a co-infection to occur, especially in pregnant women, thinking on all of the things that can go wrong with both the mother’s and the baby’s health. in the following article, we will look a bit deeper in the prevalence of a HIV/syphilis co-infection in Ghana, Africa and discuss the risks that an infection of that kind brings.

HIV and syphilis co-infection

HIV, short from human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus that damages the human immune system, causing the unfortunately well-known disease called AIDS. HIV is most commonly transmitted due to unprotected sexual intercourse, including oral, vaginal, and anal, while it can also be transmitted through bodily fluids such as saliva, blood, semen, vaginal and rectal fluids.

Currently, there is a dangerously high HIV prevalence around the world, with an especially high rise in the number of HIV cases in Ghana, Africa. As of 2014, there have been roughly 150,000 people infected with HIV in Africa alone, while it has been suggested that around 91% of the children infected with HIV worldwide are living in Africa.

But it is not only HIV whose rates are high in Africa. There are other STDs to be mentioned as well, with syphilis being one of them. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacteria known as Treponema palladium. This infection is also transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, with dangerously high rates on an international level, and approximately 8.5% prevalence of syphilis in Cape Coast, Ghana.

The prevalence of HIV and syphilis co-infection in Ghana, Africa

What is frightening about HIV and syphilis is that they often appear in a sort of co-infection, being strongly linked with one another. Although syphilis alone is highly treatable thanks to the discovery of penicillin, it increases the incidence of HIV infections on an international level.

Syphilis and HIV can be transmitted during pregnancy from the infected mother to her baby in the womb, increasing the risk of neonatal death, spontaneous abortus, low birth weight, and congenital syphilis and HIV infection among many others. Because of the high probability of an existing HIV/syphilis infection during pregnancy, it is of vital importance that every pregnant woman is tested for both HIV and syphilis as early as the first visit to the doctor’s office as well as all throughout the different stages of pregnancy.

A study published in the Journal of Infection investigated the seroprevalence of HIV/syphilis co-infection in Ghana, Africa. The results showed that the seroprevalence of HIV/syphilis co-infection is approximately 18.4%, which serves as a relatively high seroprevalence. The researchers continued to explain how early testing and detecting in addition to proper treatment in the cases where there is a positive presence of HIV or syphilis or a co-infection for that matter, contributes to the reduction of the risk of these two infections being further spread among the population.

The study also revealed that when there is an HIV/ syphilis co-infection, the patients usually present with the first HIV symptoms a lot earlier, as compared with those patients where there is only HIV infection being present. This means that by raising awareness, we can work to improve the chances of these patients noticing and reporting their symptoms in the early stages, eventually proceeding to gain access to proper treatment with penicillin and ART (antiretroviral therapy).

Conclusion

In the last couple of years, more and more people in Ghana, Africa, as well as all around the world, have been struggling with an HIV/syphilis co-infection. This co-infection is known to bring various risks and reduce the quality of life of these individuals, but what is even more dangerous is the impact that this co-infection has on the health of pregnant women and their babies.

References

http://www.healthdata.org/sites/default/files/files/images/news_release/2019/HIV%20Press%20Release%20-%20GHANA.pdf

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0953620508001301

http://www.panafrican-med-journal.com/content/article/33/252/full/

https://www.journalofinfection.com/article/S0163-4453(10)00277-X/pdf

HIV in Ghana is on the rise

HIV information

Ghana has been struggling to reduce the number of HIV infections for years. In this region, there are around 150,000 people with HIV. In 2014, the HIV prevalence rate was recorded at 1.37%, with the lowest rates registered in the north region of Ghana, and the highest in the east.

To control this epidemic, the government appointed the Ghana AIDS Commission. This commission is in charge of handling the treatment, awareness, and education for HIV and AIDS-related health issues.

But, despite the increased awareness and access to HIV treatment, this disease in the Sub-Saharan African region is still one of the most common causes of death. Statistics from 2017 show that HIV was, in fact, responsible for 13,878 deaths.

The Rates of HIV Infections in Ghana Keep Increasing

There is a drastic increase in individuals infected with HIV, according to the Ghana AIDS Commission.

Based on the 2018 statistics, there were 19,931 newly recorded HIV infections, stated the commission in a most recent announcement in 2019, December 1. Their announcement was released to the community through media, mosques, and churches.

3,317 of the newly infected were young children between the ages of 0 and 14, while the rest of the 16,614 were adults.

The most common ways of transmission for the 334,717 already living with HIV, are through:

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse
  • Using various unsterilized sharp instruments.
  • mother-to-child transmission (MTCT)

Statistics from 2016 show the same results, the number of newly infected individuals from 2010 to 2016 increased by a staggering 21%. The most infected were those between the ages of 15 and 24, which are 45% of all the infected.

While Ghana has successfully managed to reduce other common STIs infections by 16%, HIV still remains a serious problem.

What Is Being Done to Control HIV in Ghana?

To ensure access to medicines for HIV treatment, the PEPFAR (The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) has issued $23.7 million for AIDS and HIV treatment in Ghana. With the help of additional programs, PEPFAR has implemented a load of viral testing to prevent and control the spread of the infection in this region.

The Network of Persons living with AIDS and HIV in Ghana have been urging the government to boost their District Assemblies Common Fund to provide more funding for HIV and AIDS treatment.

A conference was held in May 2018 to propose new measures for controlling the HIV disease. Some of the leading institutions that participated in the conference were the CDC – Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. HIV Research Program. At the conference, the government stated they would assess implications by 2020 in an effort to end AIDS and HIV by 2030.

HIV infections are still a pressing matter for Ghana

HIV infections are still a pressing matter for Ghana. This epidemic has forced the region to start working on implementing a series of programs and policies to stop the spread of the disease and better-manage the infection. More time is necessary, however, to see the full extent of these changes and whether they will have any positive results.

References

https://www.myjoyonline.com/lifestyle/2019/November-29th/hiv-infections-on-the-rise-19000-new-cases-recorded-in-2018-ghana-aids-commission.php

http://www.healthdata.org/sites/default/files/files/images/news_release/2019/HIV%20Press%20Release%20-%20GHANA.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS_in_Ghana

https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Government-raises-concern-as-HIV-infections-increase-by-21-650173

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6527824/