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Free Content The role of sexually transmitted infections in the evolution of the South African HIV epidemic

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Summary

Objectives  To assess the extent to which sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have contributed to the spread of HIV in South Africa and to estimate the extent to which improvements in STI treatment have reduced HIV incidence.

Methods  A mathematical model was used to simulate interactions between HIV and six other STIs (genital herpes, syphilis, chancroid, gonorrhoea, chlamydial infection and trichomoniasis) as well as bacterial vaginosis and vaginal candidiasis. The effects of STIs on HIV transmission probabilities were assumed to be consistent with meta‐analytic reviews of observational studies, and the model was fitted to South African HIV prevalence data.

Results  The proportion of new HIV infections in adults that were attributable to curable STIs reduced from 39% (uncertainty range: 24–50%) in 1990 to 14% (8–18%) in 2010, while the proportion of new infections attributable to genital herpes increased. Syndromic management programmes are estimated to have reduced adult HIV incidence by 6.6% (3.3–10.3%) between 1994 and 2004, by which time syndromic management coverage was 52%. Had syndromic management been introduced in 1986, with immediate achievement of 100% coverage and a doubling of the rate of health seeking, HIV incidence would have reduced by 64% (36–82%) over the next decade, but had the same intervention been delayed until 2004, HIV incidence would have reduced by only 5.5% (2.8–9.0%).

Conclusions  Sexually transmitted infections have contributed significantly to the spread of HIV in South Africa, but STI control efforts have had limited impact on HIV incidence because of their late introduction and suboptimal coverage.
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Language: English

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1:  Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research, University of Cape Town, Anzio Road, Observatory, South Africa 2:  Centre for Actuarial Research, University of Cape Town, Rondebsoch, South Africa 3:  Burden of Disease Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Tygerberg, South Africa

Publication date: 2012-02-01

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