Objective: The aim of the Prevention of Cervical Cancer in Tanzania (PROTECT) study is to assess the prevalence of oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) and to determine the type distribution among women in the general population according to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status, in preparation for a potential HPV immunization program.
Methods: We included 3603 women from the general population in urban and rural areas of Tanzania. All women underwent a gynecological examination where a Pap smear was obtained and cervical cells were collected to assess the presence of high-risk (HR) HPV DNA by hybrid capture 2 test. Genotyping was performed by the LiPaExtra method. These women were also tested for HIV.
Results: The prevalence of HR HPV types was 20.1%, ranging from 14.8% in women with normal cytology to 94.2% in women with high grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (HSIL) or worse (100% in 5 cancers). In women with normal cytology or low-grade lesions, the most common type was HPV52 (3.2%), followed by HPV16 (2.1%). In contrast, HPV16 was the dominating type in HSIL or worse (32.8%). No cancers contained HPV52. The HR HPV prevalence was higher in HIV-positive women (46.7%) than in HIV-negative women (17.2%). No specific HR HPV types were significantly more common in HIV-positive women.
Conclusion: The HPV type distribution is similar in HIV-positive and HIV-negative women. These results suggest that the HPV vaccines that are currently available could protect women from HPV infection independently of their HIV status.