BACKGROUND: The geographic overlap between HIV-1 and malaria has generated much interest in their potential interactions. A variety of studies have evidenced a complex HIV-malaria interaction within individuals and populations that may have dramatic effects, but the causes and implications of this co-infection at the population level are still unclear. In a previous publication, we showed that the prevalence of malaria caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum is associated with HIV infection in eastern sub-Saharan Africa. To complement our knowledge of the HIV-malaria co-infection, the objective of this work was to assess the relationship between malaria and HIV prevalence in the western region of sub-Saharan Africa.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Population-based cross-sectional data were obtained from the HIV/AIDS Demographic and Health Surveys conducted in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Liberia and Cameroon, and the malaria atlas project. Using generalized linear mixed models, we assessed the relationship between HIV-1 and Plasmodium falciparum parasite rate (PfPR) adjusting for important socio-economic and biological cofactors. We found no evidence that individuals living in areas with stable malaria transmission (PfPR>0.46) have higher odds of being HIV-positive than individuals who live in areas with PfPR≤0.46 in western sub-Saharan Africa (estimated odds ratio 1.14, 95% confidence interval 0.86-1.50). In contrast, the results suggested that PfPR was associated with being infected with HIV in Cameroon (estimated odds ratio 1.56, 95% confidence interval 1.23-2.00).

CONCLUSION/SIGNIFICANCE: Contrary to our previous research on eastern sub-Saharan Africa, this study did not identify an association between PfPR and infection with HIV in western sub-Saharan Africa, which suggests that malaria might not play an important role in the spread of HIV in populations where the HIV prevalence is low. Our work highlights the importance of understanding the epidemiologic effect of co-infection and the relevant factors involved in this relationship for the implementation of effective control strategies.

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Published in PLoS One, v. 6, no. 8, p. 23458.

© 2011 Cuadros et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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