HPV Testing for HIV-positive Women

Cervical cancer screening frequency could be decreased with HPV testing

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Women who are HIV-positive have a high risk of developing cervical cancer. For this reason, these women are advised to go through frequent screenings - which often reveal nothing.

Testing HIV-positive women for HPV (human papillomavirus) may reduce the frequency - and burden - of cervical cancer Pap smear tests.

"Discuss cervical cancer screening with your doctor."

Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University re-evaluated the methods and frequency of screening HIV-positive women for cervical cancer.

Senior study author, Howard Strickler, MD, MPH, professor of epidemiology and population health at Einstein recently presented the findings at the International AIDS Conference.

“It is widely thought that before cervical pre-cancer or cervical cancer can develop, there must be persistent infection by a cancer-associated HPV, as well as the accumulation of additional genetic changes over time,” said Dr. Strickler.

Currently, HIV-positive women are advised to have two Pap smears in the first year following diagnosis, and annually thereafter.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on 420 HIV-positive and 279 HIV-negative women who were enrolled in the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS).

At the start of study, all the women had normal Pap tests and had no signs of cancer-related HPV infection. Researchers followed up with these women three and five years later.

They found similar numbers of cervical pre-cancers in both groups - HIV-positive and HIV-negative, and no cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed.

“Thus, these data raise the possibility that HPV and Pap co-testing could be used to reduce the burden of frequent Pap tests and, by extension, unnecessary biopsies in HIV-positive women who are in long-term clinical follow-up,” said Marla Keller, MD, associate professor of medicine and obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health at Einstein.

The findings were published July 25 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 27, 2012
Last Updated:
May 6, 2013