Background: A rigorous comparison of cervical cancer screening methods utilizing data on immune status, antiretroviral therapy (ART) and colposcopy-directed biopsy has not been performed among HIV-positive women.
Methods: Between June and November 2009, 500 HIV-positive women were enrolled at an HIV treatment clinic in Nairobi, Kenya, and underwent Papanicolau (Pap) smear, visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA), human papillomavirus (HPV) and colposcopy-directed biopsy (gold standard). Positive Pap smear (ASCUS+, LSIL+, HSIL+), VIA, HPV and their combinations were compared with CIN2/3+. Sensitivity, specificity and AUC (sensitivity and 1–specificity) were compared using pairwise tests and multivariate logistic regression models that included age, CD4+ cell count and ART duration.
Results: Of 500 enrolled, 498 samples were collected. On histology, there were 172 (35%) normal, 186 (37%) CIN1, 66 (13%) CIN2, 47 (9%) CIN3 and 27 (5%) indeterminate. Pap (ASCUS+) was the most sensitive screening method (92.7%), combination of both Pap (HSIL+) and VIA positive was the most specific (99.1%) and Pap (HSIL+) had the highest AUC (0.85). In multivariate analyses, CD4+ cell count of 350 cells/μl or less was associated with decreased HPV specificity (P = 0.002); ART duration of less than 2 years was associated with decreased HPV (P = 0.01) and VIA (P = 0.03) specificity; and age less than 40 years was associated with increased VIA sensitivity (P < 0.001) and decreased HPV specificity (P = 0.005).
Conclusion: Pap smear is a robust test among HIV-positive women regardless of immune status or ART duration. Results should be cautiously interpreted when using HPV among those younger, immunosuppressed or on ART less than 2 years, and when using VIA among those aged 40 years or more.