oa Southern African Journal of Epidemiology and Infection - Schistosomiasis and water-related practices in school girls in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa : original research
There is increasing evidence of an association between female genital Schistosoma haematobium infection and HIV. In KwaZulu-Natal, we aimed to explore girls' water contact practice and to determine whether a study exclusively on girls would be manageable and welcomed. Three primary schools that had participated in a parasite control programme eight years prior were approached. Subject to consent, girls aged 9 to 12 years were interviewed on water-body contact, symptoms and household composition. Urine samples were analysed for S. haematobium infection eggs. Good dialogue was achieved in all schools and 95% consented to participation; 43% had an S. haematobium infection, geometric mean intensity 10.5 ova per 10 ml urine. Only 12% had ever been treated for S. haematobium. Water-body contact was significantly associated with S. haematobium (OR 2.8, 95% CI 1.3-5.9, p= 0.008); however, S. haematobium was also found in 20% of girls who claimed to never have had water-body contact. Sixty-four percent thought they had no choice but to use unprotected water; 21% had no mother in the household, and being an orphan increased the risk of having S. haematobium. The community welcomed the study. Prevalence levels in South Africa are so high that some communities are eligible for WHO-recommended regular mass treatment.
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