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Prevalent, persistent anal HPV infection and squamous intraepithelial lesions: Findings from a cohort of men living with HIV in South Africa

posted on 2019-12-05, 18:35 authored by Admire Chikandiwa, Pedro. T. Pisa, Catherine Tamalet, Etienne. E. Muller, Pamela Michelow, Matthew. F. Chersich, Philippe Mayaud, Sinead Delany-Moretlwe


To estimate the prevalence, incidence and persistence of anal HPV infection and squamous intra-epithelial lesions (SILs) among men living with HIV (MLHIV), and determine their risk factors.


We enrolled MLHIV ≥18 years, who attended 6-monthly visits for 18 months. Socio-behavioural data were collected by questionnaire. Clinicians collected blood sample (CD4+ count and HIV plasma viral load), anal swabs (HPV DNA testing) and anal smears (Bethesda classification) at each visit. HPV DNA testing and classification of smears were done at enrolment and last follow-up visit (two time points). Factors associated with persistent anal HPV infection and SILs were evaluated with generalized estimating equations logistic regression and standard logistic regression respectively.


Mean age of 304 participants was 38 (Standard Deviation, 8) years; 25% reported >1 sexual partner in the past 3 months. Only 5% reported ever having sex with other men. Most (65%) participants were taking antiretroviral treatment (ART), with a median CD4+ count of 445 cells/μL (IQR, 328–567). Prevalence of any-HPV infection at enrolment was 39% (88/227). In total, 226 men had anal HPV DNA results at both enrolment and final visits. Persistence of any-anal HPV infection among 80 men who had infection at enrolment was 26% (21/80). Any persistent anal HPV infection was more frequent among MLHIV with low CD4+ count (<200 vs. >500 cells/μL; aOR = 6.58; 95%CI: 2.41–17.94). Prevalence of anal SILs at enrolment was 49% (118/242) while incidence of SILs among MLHIV who had no anal dysplasia at enrolment was 27% (34/124). Of the 118 men who had anal dysplasia at enrolment, 15% had regressed and 38% persisted by month 18. Persistent anal HPV infection was associated with persistent SILs (aOR = 2.95; 95%CI: 1.08–10.89). ART status or duration at enrolment were not associated with persistent anal HPV infection or persistent SILs during follow-up.


In spite of a high prevalence of anal HPV, HIV-positive heterosexual men have a low burden of anal HPV related disease. HPV vaccine and effective ART with immunological reconstitution could reduce this burden of infection.