Antiretroviral Drugs May Be Used To Treat Cervical Lesions in HIV-Positive Women, Study Says
Antiretroviral drugs may be used to treat cervical lesions in HIV-positive women, according to a study published in the July 21 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Reuters reports. HIV can lead to an increased risk of abnormalities in the cervix, including lesions -- thought to be caused by human papillomavirus -- that can progress to cancer. Lesions will usually regress on their own, but are more likely to progress to cancer in HIV-positive women (Reuters, 7/20). Dr. Linda Ahdieh-Grant of Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health and colleagues administered Pap tests, tested CD4+ cell levels and collected information on the use of antiretroviral drugs in 2,059 HIV-positive women. Of those, 312 had normal Pap tests at the start of the study but were subsequently found to have cervical lesions during the seven-year follow-up period (Ahdieh-Grant et al., Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 7/21). Before beginning antiretroviral treatment, none of the women's legions regressed; however, the regression rate increased to 12.5% after starting treatment. According to researchers, it is unclear whether antiretroviral drugs have a direct effect on precancerous legions or if they improve the immune system's ability to fight them. "These findings underscore the importance of ensuring that women who are immunosuppressed have full access to antiretroviral therapy," the researchers wrote, adding, "It should be emphasized, however, that HIV infected women on [antiretroviral therapy] must still receive careful gynecologic follow up and close routine monitoring" (Reuters, 7/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.