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Women Living With HIV/AIDS Encouraged to Be Tested for Anal Cancer

By Ikè Nwankpa

April 20, 2012

While anal cancer is widely associated with HIV-positive men who have sex with men, a recent study is highlighting how women living with HIV/AIDS are impacted by the disease as well.

Researchers from Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y., found that despite taking antiretrovirals, the prevalence of pre-cancerous cells (neoplasms) is rising among HIV-positive women. These pre-cancerous cells may not necessarily be an indicator of anal cancer, but can often be a sign of future complications.

Medical News Today reported:

The researchers examined 715 asymptomatic HIV-Infected women and found that 10.5 percent showed some form of anal disease and around 33 percent of them were identified as true pre-cancerous disease. According to the researchers, this is likely because HIV promotes human papillomavirus (HPV) persistence, which, consequently, is known to be responsible for nearly all anal cancers. In addition, individuals infected with HIV also have a higher risk of developing several other HPV-associated neoplasms.

Although antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been implemented, the incidence of anal cancer has been rising. ART has not been demonstrated to consistently change the course of HPV-associated anogenital disease.

Participants of the study were Montefiore patients in the Bronx. The Bronx has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the country. According to data, 1.8 percent of individuals in the Bronx is known to be infected with HIV; this figure represents 3 percent of the total number of HIV patients in the United States.

Because of these findings, the researchers suggest that HIV-positive women should receive anal pap smears, and women with abnormal anal pap smears and who have high viral loads, especially, should be referred for follow-up testing.

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