Study of HIV increase in Pakistan could benefit other research

August 24, 2011 by Claudia Adrien, University of Florida

Rates of HIV have increased in Pakistan's general population, as the virus has spread beyond at-risk groups to women and their children, according to an international team of researchers, including a University of Florida scientist.

The researchers raise concern that the transmission across subgroups into Pakistan's general population may serve as indication that the virus may be spreading into populations within neighboring Afghanistan. The team's epidemiological findings were published in July in the journal PLoS One.

The technique used to understand the forces that drive the HIV epidemic in Pakistan could also help understand and intervene in other deadly disease outbreaks wherever they occur, researchers say.

"Are the strains in Pakistan and Afghanistan of two different epidemic origins, or are they the same? It's an important question," said paper author Marco Salemi, a UF College of Medicine professor and a member of the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute and the UF Genetics Institute. "Genetic evidence can be used to test how different populations are intersecting. As you can imagine, behavioral data is difficult to get in some countries and this is why are important."

Salemi analyzed of blood samples from three HIV-positive groups: intravenous drug users, men who have sex with men, and women who have become infected by their bisexual spouses. By examining the evolutionary makeup of , scientists say one of the strongest factors of the disease's spread is through men who sleep with male intravenous drug users.

The study was led by scientists at Aga Khan University and Dow University of Health Sciences, both in Karachi, Pakistan's capital, and the team is part of a larger consortium of researchers worldwide who have published in the last year, further documenting the spread of HIV in predominantly . The scientists say they will continue the epidemiological work in Afghanistan.

Deriving information from molecular studies is also essential to complement information that may not necessarily be accurate, or truthful, from in-person interviews.

"These questions are very sensitive and most of the behaviors we deal with, even in countries outside the Middle East, are illegal behaviors," said Willi McFarland, director of the HIV Epidemiology Section at the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

McFarland is an author of a paper that also appeared this summer. That research was led by scientists from the Qatar branch of Weill Cornell Medical College who examined smaller studies from the Middle East and North Africa of men who hid their sexuality out of fear of prosecution.

Despite certain social and legal limitations that may make conducting similar studies difficult in some parts of the world, McFarland says the trust and confidentiality established between physicians and their patients proved crucial in providing the demographic information needed to conduct international studies such as these.

"Despite the legal consequences, the doctor patient-relationship does seem to be respected," McFarland said.

Explore further: First large study to find HIV epidemic among gays in the Middle East

Related Stories

First large study to find HIV epidemic among gays in the Middle East

August 3, 2011
HIV epidemics are emerging in several countries in the Middle East and North Africa among men who have sex with men, a term that encompasses gay, non-gay identified homosexual men, and transgendered and bisexual men.

Scientists devise new way to analyze epidemics

May 25, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- An international team of researchers led by the University of Florida has created a new way to analyze the spread of dangerous viruses, according to a study published online today in Nature Communications.

HIV 'epidemics' emerging in MENA region: study

August 3, 2011
The AIDS virus is spreading like an epidemic in some Middle East and North African countries because of homosexual encounters between men, a study warned on Wednesday.

Recommended for you

HIV-1 viruses transmitted at birth are resistant to antibodies in mother's blood

April 19, 2018
Of the genetically diverse population of HIV-1 viruses present in an infected pregnant woman, the few she might transmit to her child during delivery are resistant to attack by antibodies in her blood, according to new research ...

Top HIV cure research team refutes major recent results on how to identify HIV persistence

April 18, 2018
An international team focused on HIV cure research spearheaded by The Wistar Institute in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania and Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) in Barcelona, Spain, established that ...

Scientists discover new way that HIV evades the immune system

April 17, 2018
Scientists have just discovered a new mechanism by which HIV evades the immune system, and which shows precisely how the virus avoids elimination. The new research shows that HIV targets and disables a pathway involving a ...

Team develops new way to fight HIV transmission

April 16, 2018
Scientists at the University of Waterloo have developed a new tool to protect women from HIV infection.

Genetically altered broadly neutralizing antibodies protect monkeys from HIV-like virus

April 16, 2018
Two genetically modified broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) protected rhesus macaques from an HIV-like virus, report scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National ...

How does HIV escape cellular booby traps?

April 5, 2018
HIV is believed to have evolved from a simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV, that originated in chimpanzees. How SIV made the species jump has remained a mystery, since humans possess a defense mechanism that should prevent ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.