Cervical Cancer Screening of Women Living with HIV Infection: A Must in the Era of Antiretroviral Therapy

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Women living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection have a much higher risk of human papillomavirus infection and cervical cancer than do HIV-uninfected women. Before the introduction of antiretroviral therapy, the lack of cervical cancer screening among HIV-infected women probably had little influence on their life expectancies because of the high competing mortality associated with other causes, but the situation is changing rapidly everywhere. In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, ˜400,000 HIV-infected women were receiving antiretroviral therapy in 2005. Funds given to antiretroviral therapy programs in low-resource countries not only support the purchase of drugs, but they also support the development of clinical infrastructures and laboratories. Because women who receive antiretroviral therapy are observed regularly, they can also receive the continuity of care needed for cervical screening. Therefore, the real opportunity to prevent cervical cancer in HIV-infected women in low-resource countries should not be missed, especially as new, inexpensive screening methods (e.g., rapid human papillomavirus tests) are under evaluation.

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