Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, HIV infection and cervical cancer in Tanzania, east Africa

Int J Cancer. 1992 Jun 19;51(4):515-21. doi: 10.1002/ijc.2910510403.


The presence of HPV-DNA was determined in tumor biopsies of cervical-cancer patients and in cervical swabs of non-cancer patients from Tanzania, East Africa, by Southern blot hybridization and/or PCR. HPV types 16 and 18 were detected in 38% and 32%, respectively, of 50 cervical-carcinoma biopsies. A consensus primer PCR capable of detecting a broad spectrum of HPV types revealed the presence of HPV-DNA in 59% of 359 cervical swabs of non-cancer patients. Type-specific PCR showed that types 16 and 18 accounted for 13.2% and 17.5%, respectively, of all HPV infections. Therefore we concluded that HPV 18 is more prevalent in Tanzania than in any other geographical location so far reported. The strongest risk factors for the presence of any HPV-DNA in the 359 female non-cancer patients were young age and HIV infection. The epidemiology of HPV types 16 and 18 was found to differ from that of other HPV types, being associated in univariate analysis with trichomonas vaginalis infection, martial status (single/divorced), age at first intercourse, and young age at menarche. However, young age at menarche accounted for most of the effects of all other, variables in multivariate analysis. Of the non-cancer patients, 12.8% had antibodies against HIV I (no patient being severely symptomatic), and HIV infection was highly correlated with the presence of HPV-DNA, especially types 16 and 18. While HPV-DNA of any type was detectable 1.4-fold more often in HIV-positive patients than in HIV-negative patients, evidence of an infection with HPV types 16 or 18 was found 2.2-fold more often in the HIV-positive patients. The HIV-positive women did not show an increased rate of cervical cytological abnormalities as assessed by PAP staining of a single cervical smear, the overall rate of abnormalities being 2.8%. Furthermore, the age-adjusted prevalence of HIV antibodies was found to be considerably lower in 270 cervical-carcinoma patients (3% HIV-positive) in comparison with non-cancer patients. Thus there was no association observable between the prevalence of HIV infections and the frequency of cervical cytological abnormalities or cervical cancer in the setting of this cross-sectional study.

PIP: Southern blot hybridization and/or PCR was used to examine tumor biopsies of 53 women with cervical or vaginal cancer at Ocean Road Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and the cervical swabs of 359 women with no cancer at the gynecologic clinic at Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences in Dar es Salaam. Tanzanian and German scientists wanted to determine whether an association existed between human papillomavirus (HPV) infections and HIV, and whether the high prevalence of HIV infection was matched by a high prevalence of HPV infections, cervical dysplasias, and cervical cancer in HIV-positive cases. 59% of the noncancerous women had HPV-DNA. Young age and HIV infection were the greatest risk factors for HPV-DNA in these women (p .0001 for age and HPV-16/18; p = .08 for other HPVs; and p = .03 for HIV). 13.2% and 17.5% of all HPV infections were HPV types 16 and 18, respectively. Tanzania had the highest prevalence of HPV 18 ever reported. HPV-16/18 risk factors included: Trichomonas vaginalis infection (odds ratio [OR] = 2.23; p = .04), single status (OR = 2.55; p = .01), 16 years old or less at first intercourse (OR = 2.1; p = .03), and young age at menarche (OR = 6 for or=12 years old; p = .02 and OR = 3.25 for or=13 years old and or=16 years old; p = .05). Yet, the multivariate analysis revealed young age at menarche had the greatest effect (OR = 6.2 for or= 12 years old, p = .03; OR = 3.73 for or=16 years old, p = .08). 12.8% of noncancerous women tested positive for HIV-1, but none of them were obviously symptomatic. These HIV-positive women had a higher OR if they had HPV-16/18 than if they had other HPV types (4.25 vs. 2.02). Further, they did not have more cervical cytological abnormalities than did the HIV-negative women (overall cervical cytological abnormality rate - 2.8%). The HIV-positive rate for cancerous patients was only 3%. In conclusion, no association existed between HIV infection and cervical cytological abnormalities or cervical cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cervix Uteri / microbiology
  • Cervix Uteri / pathology
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV-1*
  • Humans
  • Papillomaviridae*
  • Risk Factors
  • Tanzania
  • Tumor Virus Infections / complications*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / complications*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / microbiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Vaginal Neoplasms / complications


  • DNA, Viral