High Prevalence of Hepatitis B Virus Infection Among People With HIV in Rural and Periurban Communities in Botswana

Open Forum Infectious Diseases

This research paper highlights a significant health concern in Botswana – the co-infection of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The study, conducted in rural and periurban communities of Botswana, sheds light on the prevalence of HBV among individuals living with HIV, providing essential insights for public health officials and healthcare providers.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that primarily affects the liver leading to liver ailments and liver cancer. HIV weakens the immune system and if left untreated can lead to severe disease. When a person is infected with both HIV and HBV, their health can be seriously impacted. It is known that HIV can accelerate the progression of HBV, leading to more severe liver-related complications. Therefore, understanding the prevalence of HBV-HIV co-infection is crucial for managing and preventing potential complications. Hepatitis B is diagnosed using the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), however there are cases where individuals test negative for this antigen but have viral DNA in their liver and blood. These cases are known as occult hepatitis B infection (OBI).

The research team conducted a comprehensive study, examining blood samples from over 3000 individuals living with HIV in both rural and periurban settings of Botswana. They screened for both HBsAg and OBI and found a HBsAg prevalence of 8% and an OBI prevalence of 33% among people already living with HIV. This alarming result emphasizes the need for targeted screening, prevention, and treatment strategies to address the dual burden of these infections in Botswana. Males and people residing in the northern part of Botswana were more to be infected with HBV therefore these findings can guide healthcare policymakers and professionals to develop tailored interventions to improve the health outcomes of those co-infected with HBV and HIV. By increasing awareness and implementing appropriate preventive measures, such as vaccination and regular screening, the burden of these infections can be reduced, and individuals’ overall health and quality of life can be improved.

In conclusion, this study underscores the importance of addressing the high prevalence of HBV among individuals living with HIV in rural and periurban communities in Botswana. Through effective public health measures, early detection, and comprehensive care, it is possible to mitigate the impact of these infections and enhance the well-being of affected individuals.

SANTHE is an Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) flagship programme funded by the Science for Africa Foundation through the DELTAS Africa programme; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Gilead Sciences Inc.; and the Ragon Institute of Mass General, MIT, and Harvard.