Among women living with HIV, those on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment have lower rates of high-risk cervical human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, high-grade precancerous HPV-related cervical lesions and invasive cervical cancer, aidsmap reports.

Publishing their findings in The Lancet HIV, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 31 studies looking at HPV and cervical-cancer-related factors among HIV-positive women.

There were data on 6,537 women regarding their rate of high-risk HPV, plus data on 9,299 women regarding their rate of high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions–cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (HSIL-CIN2+, which are precancerous cells). After adjusting the data for CD4 count and the duration of ARV treatment, the researchers found that compared with women who did not start ARVs, those on HIV treatment had a 17 percent lower risk of high-risk HPV infection. The connection between ARV treatment and HSIL-CIN2+ was not statistically significant, meaning that the apparent association between HIV treatment and a reduced rate of the condition may have been the result of chance.

Seventeen studies reported on the association between ARVs and long-term cervical lesion outcomes. Being on HIV treatment was associated with a 41 percent lower risk of HSIL-CIN2+ among 1,830 women. Among 6,212 women, ARV treatment was associated with a 36 percent reduction in the progression of squamous intraepithelial lesions (SIL, which are mildly abnormal cervical cell changes). Among 5,261 women, ARVs were associated with a 54 percent increased likelihood of the regression of SIL or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN, which are potentially precancerous cervical cell changes).

In three studies including 15,846 women, ARV treatment was associated with a 60 percent reduction in the rate of diagnosis of invasive cervical cancer.

The researchers concluded that treating HIV early and adhering to ARVs over the long term “is likely to reduce incidence and progression of SIL and CIN and ultimately incidence of invasive cervical cancer.”

To read the aidsmap article, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.