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Communicable diseases
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Three main diseases

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which is transmitted through sexual intercourse, blood transfusion, and unsafe drug-injecting practices, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding. HIV attacks the immune system – after a variable symptom-free period, the patient becomes vulnerable to major infections which can prove fatal. There is no vaccine yet and no cure for AIDS, but combined antiretroviral treatment helps. Prevention is crucial and must be promoted through condoms, safe sex, safe blood supplies, the non-sharing of needles or syringes, and treatment of infected mothers before and after giving birth.

Tuberculosis (TB)

TB is an often deadly bacterial disease which can affect many parts of the body, mostly the lungs. It is transmitted through close contact with a patient suffering from infectious TB. AIDS and TB go hand in hand – TB is the leading cause of death among sufferers who are HIV positive, and AIDS is contributing to the spread of TB. The BCG vaccine may give some protection, although its efficacy is questionable in adulthood. Effective, inexpensive treatment exists, but its impact depends on how well it is followed and for how long – many months of treatment are necessary. As a consequence of poor treatment compliance, the emergence of (multi)drug-resistant bacterial strains is now becoming a major concern.


Malaria is caused by the parasite Plasmodium which spends part of its life cycle inside a mosquito. The parasite is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. As yet there is no antimalarial vaccine. Prevention involves mosquito control and bite prevention, mainly through mosquito-repellent impregnated bed-nets and taking antimalarial drugs. Malaria is curable if promptly diagnosed and treated, but parasite resistance to treatment is a growing problem.

Communicable Diseases