Beyond the barrier: Female Genital Schistosomiasis as a potential risk factor for HIV-1 acquisition
Female genital schistosomiasis (FGS) results from egg-deposition in the female reproductive tract primarily by the waterborne parasite Schistosoma (S.) haematobium, and less commonly by Schistosoma (S.) mansoni. FGS affects an estimated 20-56 million women worldwide, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. There is cross-sectional evidence of increased HIV-1 prevalence in schistosomiasis-infected women, but a causal relationship between FGS and either HIV-1 acquisition or transmission has not been fully established. Beyond the pathognomonic breach in the cervicovaginal barrier caused by FGS, this narrative review explores potential mechanisms for a synergistic relationship between S. haematobium infection, FGS, and HIV-1 acquisition through vaginal inflammation and target cell recruitment.