Cervical squamous intra-epithelial lesions (SIL) are more frequent in HIV-positive women overall. However the appropriate age at which to begin and end cervical cancer screening for early detection of lesions in HIV-positive women is not clear. We assessed the age-specific prevalence of any SIL and SIL requiring colposcopy in HIV-positive women in Cameroon.
We enrolled, interviewed and conducted conventional cervical cytology in 282 women, aged 19–68 years, initiating antiretroviral therapy in three clinics in Cameroon. In bivariable analyses, the crude relationship between age and the presence of lesions was assessed using locally weighted regression (LOWESS) methods. In multivariate analyses, generalized linear models with prevalence as the outcome, an identity link and a binomial distribution, were used to estimate prevalence differences. Bias analyses were conducted to assess the potential effect of inaccuracies in cytology.
SIL were detected in 43.5% of the 276 women with satisfactory samples, 17.8% of whom had ASC-H/HSIL. On average, women aged 26 to 59 tended to have a slightly higher prevalence of any SIL than other women (Prevalence difference PD: 6.5%; 95%CI: -11.4, 24.4%). This PD was a function of CD4 count (heterogeneity test p-value =0.09): amongst patients with CD4 counts less than 200cells/uL, the prevalence was higher in patients aged 26–59, while there was essentially no difference amongst women with CD4 counts greater than 200 cells/uL. ASC-H/HSIL were present in women as young as 19 and as old as 62. Overall the prevalence of ASC-H/HSIL increased by 0.7% (95%CI: -3.8%, 5.1%) per decade increase in age.
Both severe and less severe lesions were prevalent at all ages suggesting little utility of age-targeted screening among HIV-positive women. Nevertheless, the long-term evolution of these lesions needs to be assessed in prospective studies.