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OBJECTIVES - HIV-infected women living in resource-constrained nations like Zambia are now accessing antiretroviral therapy and thus may live long enough for HPV-induced cervical cancer to manifest and progress. We evaluated the prevalence and predictors of cervical squamous intraepithelial lesions (SIL) among HIV-infected women in Zambia.
METHODS - We screened 150 consecutive, non-pregnant HIV-infected women accessing HIV/AIDS care services in Lusaka, Zambia. We collected cervical specimens for cytological analysis by liquid-based monolayer cytology (ThinPrep Pap Test) and HPV typing using the Roche Linear Array PCR assay.
RESULTS - The median age of study participants was 36 years (range 23-49 years) and their median CD4+ count was 165/microL (range 7-942). The prevalence of SIL on cytology was 76% (114/150), of which 23.3% (35/150) women had low-grade SIL, 32.6% (49/150) had high-grade SIL, and 20% (30/150) had lesions suspicious for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). High-risk HPV types were present in 85.3% (128/150) women. On univariate analyses, age of the participant, CD4+ cell count, and presence of any high-risk HPV type were significantly associated with the presence of severely abnormal cytological lesions (i.e., high-grade SIL and lesions suspicious for SCC). Multivariable logistic regression modeling suggested the presence of any high-risk HPV type as an independent predictor of severely abnormal cytology (adjusted OR: 12.4, 95% CI 2.62-58.1, p=0.02).
CONCLUSIONS - The high prevalence of abnormal squamous cytology in our study is one of the highest reported in any population worldwide. Screening of HIV-infected women in resource-constrained settings like Zambia should be implemented to prevent development of HPV-induced SCC.