Background: No data exist on the population prevalence of, or risk factors for, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in predominantly Muslim countries in Asia.
Methods: Cervical specimens were obtained from 899 married women aged 15-59 years from the general population of Karachi, Pakistan and from 91 locally diagnosed invasive cervical cancers (ICCs). HPV was detected using a GP5+/6+ PCR-based assay.
Results: The prevalence of HPV in the general population was 2.8%, with no evidence of higher HPV prevalence in young women. The positivity of HPV was associated with women's lifetime number of sexual partners, but particularly with the age difference between spouses and other husbands' characteristics, such as extramarital sexual relationships and regular absence from home. The HPV16/18 accounted for 24 and 88% of HPV-positive women in the general population and ICC, respectively.
Conclusion: Cervical cancer prevention policies should take into account the low HPV prevalence and low acceptability of gynaecological examination in this population.