Human papillomavirus infection and cervical cancer prevention in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal

Vaccine. 2008 Aug 19;26 Suppl 12:M43-52. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2008.05.005.


Although one-third of the world cervical cancer burden is endured in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, there are important gaps in our knowledge of the distribution and determinants of the disease in addition to inadequate investments in screening, diagnosis and treatment in these countries. Prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection among the general populations varies from 7-14% and the age-specific prevalence across age groups is constant with no clear peak in young women. This observation may be the result of a low clearance rate of incident infections, frequent re-infection/reactivation, limited or no data in target high-risk age groups (teenagers), and sexual behavioural patterns in the population. High-risk HPV types were found in 97% of cervical cancers, and HPV-16 and 18 were found in 80% of cancers in India. Beyond research studies, demonstration projects and provincial efforts in selected districts, there are no serious initiatives to introduce population-based screening by public health authorities in these countries. Cervical cancer is a relatively neglected disease in terms of advocacy, screening and prevention from professional or public health organizations. Cytology, HPV testing and visual screening with acetic acid (VIA) or Lugol's iodine (VILI) are known to be accurate and effective methods to detect cervical cancer and could contribute to the reduction of disease in these countries. While HPV vaccination provides hope for the future, several barriers prohibit the introduction of prophylactic vaccines in these countries such as high costs and low public awareness of cervical cancer. Efforts to implement screening based on the research experiences in the region offer the only currently viable means of rapidly reducing the heavy burden of disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alphapapillomavirus / classification
  • Alphapapillomavirus / isolation & purification
  • Bangladesh / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Iodides / administration & dosage
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Nepal / epidemiology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications
  • Papillomavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Papillomavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sri Lanka / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology
  • Vaginal Smears / methods
  • Young Adult


  • Iodides
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines
  • Acetic Acid
  • Lugol's solution