HPV increases risk of HIV - study
Women with human papillomavirus (HPV), a precursor to cervical cancer, face a higher risk of HIV infection.
This is according to Professor Anan-Lise Williamson, a virologist at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine at the University of Cape Town.
Williamson said recent studies found that the more types of HPV a woman has, the more susceptible she is to contracting HIV, while women who don’t have HPV are less likely to contract HIV.
“It can be because of the immune system’s response to HPV on the cervix (that makes) women more susceptible to HIV,” she said.
Williamson was speaking at the annual Roche Diagnostics Forum in Bryanston yesterday.
Human papillomaviruses are a group of virus types – some of which are sexually transmitted and cause cervical cancer, among other cancers. HPV can be prevented through a vaccine recommended for pre-adolescent girls before they reach their sexual debut. The vaccine is available in South Africa, but it is expensive.
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer found among women in sub-Saharan Africa, with a prevalence five times higher than that in Europe. It is estimated that about 90 percent of women will acquire an HPV infection before the age of 30.
In 2008, 67 percent of women with cervical cancer died, compared with 2.4 percent in Europe.
In South Africa, cervical cancer is more prevalent among black women and, according to the Human Papillomavirus Cervical Cancer Research Fund, causes the death of nearly 10 women a day.
Experts are calling it an epidemic. “Concern is growing as there appears to be an increasing epidemic of papillomavirus-induced disease involving not only the cervix, but elsewhere in the female genital tract and anogenital region,” said Professor Martin Hale, head of the Department of Anatomical Pathology at Wits University.
HIV-positive women have a higher prevalence of HPV, are more likely to be infected with multiple HPV types and develop cervical cancer at a younger age – on average 10 years younger than HIV-negative women.
While young girls are the focus of HPV vaccine campaigns, Williamson said boys should not be forgotten about in the HPV discourse.
A study conducted on HPV infection in HIV-positive and -negative men and women found that men have a higher rate of new HPV infection, and more incidence of HPV in HIV-negative men. - The Star