Human Papillomavirus Infection and Cervical Disease in Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1–Infected Women

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To report on the natural history of high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cervical disease in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1–infected women living in Cape Town, South Africa.


This was a prospective study of 400 untreated, HIV-1–infected women who underwent high-risk HPV DNA testing, cytology, colposcopy, histology, and CD4 count testing every 6 months for 36 months. Human immunodeficiency virus viral loads and HPV type distribution were determined at entry and after 18 months.


Sixty-eight percent of the women were high-risk HPV DNA positive at entry, 35% had a cytologic diagnosis of low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (LSIL), and 13% had high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (HSIL). There were no cancers. Abnormal cytology and high-risk HPV positivity were strongly correlated with low CD4 counts and high HIV viral loads. The most prevalent types of HPV were HPV-16, -52, -53, -35, and -18. Incident high-risk HPV infection occurred in 22%, and of those infected with high-risk HPV, 94% of infections persisted over an 18-month period, and 6% cleared their infections. Cytologic progression to SIL from normal/atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance cytology occurred in 17% of cases, but only 4% of cases of LSIL progressed to HSIL.


There is a high level of high-risk HPV infection in HIV-1 infected women, but progression to HSIL over 36 months occurred in the minority of cases. We recommend an initial colposcopy for an abnormal test, and if no high-grade lesion is identified, triennial screening would be appropriate. Human papillomavirus type 16 was the commonest, and HPV-18 was the fifth commonest, suggesting that vaccination against these two types would have a significant effect.



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