Veteran Women Living With Human Immunodeficiency Virus Have Increased Risk of Human Papillomavirus (HPV)-Associated Genital Tract Cancers

Clin Infect Dis. 2021 May 4;72(9):e359-e366. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa1162.


Background: Disparities in access to screening often confound observed differences in human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated female genital tract cancer (FGTC) incidence between women living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV; WLWH) and their HIV-negative counterparts. We aimed to determine if there have been changes in cancer risk among WLWH during the antiretroviral era in a single-payer health system.

Methods: We retrospectively selected WLWH and HIV-negative controls receiving care between 1999 and 2016 at the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and identified FGTC diagnoses via Cancer Registry and International Classification of Diseases-9/10 codes. We extracted demographic and clinical variables from the VA's Corporate Data Warehouse; evaluated incidence rates (IRs), incidence rate ratios, hazard ratios, and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for cancer risk; and conducted survival analyses.

Results: We identified 1454 WLWH and compared them with 5816 matched HIV-negative controls. More WLWH developed HPV-associated FGTCs (total n = 28 [2.0%]; cervical = 22, vulvovaginal = 4, and anal/rectal = 2) than HIV-negative women (total n = 32 [0.6%]; cervical = 24, vulvovaginal = 5, and anal/rectal = 5) (log rank P < .0001). Cervical cancer IR was >6-fold higher for WLWH (204.2 per 100 000 person-years [py] [95% CI, 83.8-324.7]) than HIV-negative women (IR = 31.2 per 100 000 py [95% CI, 17.9-44.5]). The IRs for vulvovaginal and anal cancers were also higher in WLWH. Overall, WLWH were more likely to develop HPV-associated FGTCs compared with their HIV-negative counterparts (all log rank P values < .0001).

Conclusions: Veteran WLWH are more likely to develop HPV-associated FGTCs despite equal access to health care. Even in single-payer health systems, WLWH continue to require special attention to ensure guideline-based high-risk HPV screening for prevention of FGTCs.

Keywords: HIV; HPV; cancer; cervical; epidemiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alphapapillomavirus*
  • Female
  • HIV
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms*
  • Papillomaviridae
  • Papillomavirus Infections* / complications
  • Papillomavirus Infections* / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Veterans*