HIV and AIDS and Cancers

HIV, Aids and Cancer

Zimbabwe is severely affected by the AIDS epidemic, with a prevalence rate of 13.7% and many cancers in African population are related to infectious agents. Seventy percent of cervical cancer cases in sub-Saharan Africa are caused by human papilloma virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted. The HIV and AIDS pandemic is augmenting the rate of HIV-related cancers, with 60% of new cancers in Zimbabwe being associated with HIV and AIDS, according to the Zimbabwe National Cancer Registry Report of 2005. As the nation joins the international community in commemorating the World Aids Day on the 1st of December under the theme; Getting to Zero - Leaders Make Universal Access A Reality, it is important that we explore the relationship between HIV and AIDS and cancer.

The connection between HIV/AIDS and certain cancers is not completely understood, but the link likely depends on a weakened immune system. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a disease of the immune system caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV is transmitted from person to person most commonly in blood and bodily secretions (such as semen). A person with HIV is highly vulnerable to life-threatening conditions because HIV severely weakens the body’s immune system. When HIV infection causes symptoms and specific disease syndromes, the disease is called AIDS. People with HIV/AIDS have a high risk of developing certain cancers, such as Kaposi sarcoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and cervical cancer. For people with HIV, these three cancers are often called “AIDS-defining conditions,” meaning that if a person with an HIV infection has one of these cancers it can signify the development of AIDS.

Considering that the great majority of HIV and AIDS cases in Zimbabwe, about 98% are heterosexually acquired, observing the ABC strategy of HIV and AIDS prevention becomes imminent to the prevention of cancer in the country. The ABC strategy or abstinence-plus sex education, also known as abstinence-based sex education is a sex education policy based on harm reduction which modifies the approach of abstinence-only sex education by including education about safe sex and birth control methods. Abstinence/delay of sexual debut, Being faithful/partner reduction, and Condom use - is key to understanding and combating sexual transmission of HIV.

"The introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has resulted in decreased mortality and morbidity,and the majority of people in developed countries infected with HIV are living with only mild to moderate immunosuppression because of wide access to antiretroviral therapy. "