High prevalence of abnormal Pap smears among young women co-infected with HIV in rural South Africa - implications for cervical cancer screening policies in high HIV prevalence populations

  • Asheber Gaym
  • May Mashego
  • Ayesha BM Kharsany
  • Jenny Walldorf
  • Janet Frohlich
  • Quarraisha Abdool Karim


Objective. To establish the relationship between HIV infection and cervical  dysplasia in young women in rural South Africa,
Methods. This cross"sectional study was conducted at a primary health care clinic in Vulindlela, KwaZulu-Natal. Standardised questionnaires were used  to collect sociodemographic and clinical presentation data from women attending family planning and other reproductive health services. Pap  smears were done using standard methods. Pap smear data were linked to HIV serostatus.
Results. Four hundred and sixty-six women were included in the study. The median age was 24.3 years (range 15 -55 years),and 80% were younger than 30 years. The HIV prevalence .rate was 24.5% (95% confidence interval: 20.7 - 28.7%) and the prevalence of abnormal Pap smears was 16.9- 6.4% ASCUS (atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance), 9.2% LGSIL (low-grade squamous intra epithelial lesions), and 1.3% HGSIL (high-grade squamous intraepitheliallesions). The association between BIV seropositivity and abnormal Pap results was statistically significant (p < 0.05).
Conclusion. There is a need for more data on cervical changes in HIV  co-infected women and for review of guidelines on selective Pap smear screening in high HIV prevalence settings such as sub-Saharan Africa and  where access to antiretroviral treatment remains limited.

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eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135