Cervical cancer screening and treatment, HIV infection, and age: Program implementation in seven regions of Namibia

PLoS One. 2022 Feb 16;17(2):e0263920. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0263920. eCollection 2022.


The aim of this study was to assess differences in cervical cancer screening and treatment outcomes by HIV status in a routine programmatic setting with a high generalized HIV prevalence. Women living with HIV (WLHIV) are at heightened risk of developing cervical cancer and the World Health Organization recommends all WLHIV who are sexually active be screened, regardless of age. In 2018, Namibia's Ministry of Health and Social Services introduced a screen-and-treat approach using visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) and ablative treatment with cryotherapy or thermocoagulation with a focus on screening HIV-positive women due to Namibia's 11.5% prevalence of HIV in women aged 15-49. Using program data from October 2018 to March 2020 from seven of the country's 14 regions, we calculated descriptive statistics and chi-square tests to test the statistical significance of differences in VIA-positivity, ineligibility for ablative treatment, treatment completion, and same day treatment completion by HIV status. Between October 2018 and March 2020, the program conducted 14,786 cervical cancer screenings. Among 8,150 women who received their first VIA screening, more WLHIV screened VIA-positive (17%) than HIV-negative women (15%). This difference was statistically significant (p = 0.02). Among 2,272 women who screened VIA-positive at any screening, 1,159 (82%) completed ablative treatment. This suggests ablative treatment is feasible and acceptable in resource-limited settings. WLHIV were also more likely to complete treatment than HIV-negative women (p<0.01). Differences in health seeking behavior of sub-populations as well as resource availability between service delivery points should be considered for further investigation. Going forward in order to strengthen program implementation and expand screening access and uptake further investigation is needed to determine cancer incidence by HIV status, age, and time since last screening to assess cases that are averted as well as potential rates of overtreatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cryotherapy / methods*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Electrocoagulation / methods*
  • Female
  • HIV / isolation & purification*
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • Health Plan Implementation*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • Namibia / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / etiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / therapy
  • Young Adult