Women’s Health in Southern Africa

A reality of southern Africa is the high rate of HIV/AIDS infections among the regional population. Swaziland and Botswana are the two countries with the highest (in the world) rates of HIV among their populations. Interestingly, many women are also showing up with cervical cancer.

During the recent National Hiv/Aids, Sexually Transmitted Infections and Other Related Infections (NHASORC II) Conference in Botswana, there was a poster presentation (by UPenn, was it?) about a study to investigate the relation of women with HIV and HPV (human papiloma virus). HPV is a sexually transmitted disease of which there are many strains, a couple of which can lead to cervical cancer in women. The researchers looked at a group of 60 women who are HIV positive and tested to see if they also had HPV. While I don’t remember the findings exactly, it seemed that all but one of the women also had HPV, and a few had the strains that lead to cervical cancer.

While in Swaziland recently, I came across some information about cervical cancer being the most common cancer among women. It seems to me, from limited research into the matter, that women who are HIV positive are also contracting HPV which is developing into cervical cancer in some cases. Perhaps a weakened immune system coupled with high-risk sexual behavior is causing women with HIV to develop cervical cancer.

For more information about cervical cancer in Swaziland, an article in CytoJournal:
http://www.cytojournal.com/article.asp?issn=1742-6413;year=2009;volume=6;issue=1;spage=14;epage=14;aulast=OKONDA

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