The Western Connecticut Health Network has called for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand the definition of “AIDS-defining illnesses” to include the full range of human papillomavirus (HPV)–related cancers. At present, the CDC only categorizes cervical cancer as an AIDS-defining illness. Using a recent case report published in Rare Tumors of a 27-year-old HIV-positive woman with advanced vulvar cancer as evidence, the Connecticut group suggests that the CDC should further recognize vulvar, vaginal, penile, anal, lower lid squamous cell carcinoma and some head and neck cancers as AIDS-defining.

“HIV patients with HPV-related cancers other than cervical cancer are not traditionally treated as aggressively as they should be,” Shohreh Shahabi, MD, chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Danbury Hospital and one of the case report authors, said in a release. “Taken together, HIV and HPV-associated cancers create a dangerous combination that requires a new definition of the best standardized treatment.”

The woman in the case report had been on antiretrovirals (ARVs) for a decade when she was diagnosed with cancer, and she had a CD4 count greater than 200, which disqualified her for an AIDS diagnosis. She responded well to radiation and chemotherapy followed by surgery. The paper authors theorize that the woman's ARV treatment contributed to her ultimate success in responding to the cancer treatment.

To read the case report, click here.