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A team of infectious disease specialists from Norway have explained the possible reason for the high rates of AIDS among African women.

The team explained that African women are more prone to HIV, due to genital schistosomiasis - an undiagnosed chronic parasitic disease, which is caused by worms, picked up in infested river water.

Genital schistosomiasis, often called "schisto", causes sores in the vaginal canal of women. These sores may serve as the access points for HIV, according to Dr. Eyrun F. Kjetland, the leader of the Otimati team, as reported by New York Times.

In addition to this, worms and eggs in the sores attract CD4 cells, and these cells are attacked by HIV. These worms can be killed by a drug, claimed Kjetland, and added that his team is trying if it can also heal the sores in African women.

Close to 60% of African women are victims of AIDS, which is an exception as majority of the people infected with AIDS worldwide are men, according to the report.

The Otimati team's schisto theory for the high susceptibility of African women to HIV has some conflicts with AIDS experts, who claim that urban African women who stay far from infested water also suffer from AIDS.

However, the worm theory has been supported by top agencies, such as the United Nations and the National Institutes of Health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"Schistosomiasis is arguably the most important cofactor in Africa's AIDS epidemic. And it's a huge women's health issue: Everyone has heard of genital mutilation and obstetric fistulas. But mention this, and the headlights just go dim," Dr. Peter J. Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said in the report.

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