The little-known links between cervical cancer and HIV

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women living with HIV. The likelihood that a woman living with HIV will develop invasive cervical cancer is up to five times higher than for a woman who is not living with HIV. The overall risk of HIV acquisition among women is doubled when they have had a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

So, what can be done? This is one of the questions that was discussed at a number of events addressing cervical cancer at the 2019 Women Deliver conference, which took place in Vancouver, Canada, from 3 to 6 June.

Like HIV, cervical cancer is a disease of gender and other inequalities. These two interconnected diseases starkly expose the links between inequity and social and health injustice. Ninety per cent of 311 000 cervical cancer deaths globally per year occur in low- and middle-income countries, with the highest burden borne by sub-Sahara African countries that have the highest burden of HIV. In Zambia, rates of cervical cancer are almost 10 times higher than in Australia, for example, and women are 10 times more likely to die of cervical cancer in eastern and southern Africa than they are in western Europe.

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