Human papillomavirus prevalence, viral load and pre-cancerous lesions of the cervix in women initiating highly active antiretroviral therapy in South Africa: a cross-sectional study
1 School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Women's Health Research Unit, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
2 Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
3 Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
4 National Health Laboratory Service, Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa
BMC Cancer 2009, 9:275 doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-275Published: 7 August 2009
Cervical cancer and infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are both important public health problems in South Africa (SA). The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of cervical squamous intraepithelial lesions (SILs), high-risk human papillomavirus (HR-HPV), HPV viral load and HPV genotypes in HIV positive women initiating anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy.
A cross-sectional survey was conducted at an anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment clinic in Cape Town, SA in 2007. Cervical specimens were taken for cytological analysis and HPV testing. The Digene Hybrid Capture 2 (HC2) test was used to detect HR-HPV. Relative light units (RLU) were used as a measure of HPV viral load. HPV types were determined using the Roche Linear Array HPV Genotyping test. Crude associations with abnormal cytology were tested and multiple logistic regression was used to determine independent risk factors for abnormal cytology.
The median age of the 109 participants was 31 years, the median CD4 count was 125/mm3, 66.3% had an abnormal Pap smear, the HR-HPV prevalence was 78.9% (Digene), the median HPV viral load was 181.1 RLU (HC2 positive samples only) and 78.4% had multiple genotypes. Among women with abnormal smears the most prevalent HR-HPV types were HPV types 16, 58 and 51, all with a prevalence of 28.5%. On univariate analysis HR-HPV, multiple HPV types and HPV viral load were significantly associated with the presence of low and high-grade SILs (LSIL/HSIL). The multivariate logistic regression showed that HPV viral load was associated with an increased odds of LSIL/HSIL, odds ratio of 10.7 (95% CI 2.0 – 57.7) for those that were HC2 positive and had a viral load of ≤ 181.1 RLU (the median HPV viral load), and 33.8 (95% CI 6.4 – 178.9) for those that were HC2 positive with a HPV viral load > 181.1 RLU.
Women initiating ARVs have a high prevalence of abnormal Pap smears and HR-HPV. Our results underscore the need for locally relevant, rigorous screening protocols for the increasing numbers of women accessing ARV therapy so that the benefits of ARVs are not partially offset by an excess risk in cervical cancer.