I have HIV. Am I at risk of getting cancers caused by HPV?
Yes, People with HIV have a bigger risk of getting cancers caused by HPV especially if your CD4 count or immunity is low. HPV can cause genital warts and hpv related cancers that include cancer of the cervix (part of the womb; cervical cancer), anus (anal cancer), back of the throat (oropharynx) or mouth (oropharyngeal cancer, also known as head and neck cancer), vulva and vagina (vulvar and vaginal cancer), penis (penile cancer).
What’s the difference between HIV and HPV?
HIV and HPV are COMPLETELY different viruses. Both viruses are transmitted through sexual contact but affect the body in different ways. HIV is a virus that affects the immune system and makes an individual’s immune system too weak to fend off infection. HPV is a virus that affects the skin and moist membranes and can cause cell changes. HPV can cause genital warts and hpv related cancers that include cancer of the cervix, anus, back of the throat or mouth (oropharynx), vulva, vagina, and penis.
Because people living with HIV have a weakened immune system, they therefore are at higher risk of contracting HPV that causes genital warts and cancers caused by HPV.
Does HIV make HPV worse?
HIV can increase your risk of getting HPV, due to a weakened immune system. Furthermore, HIV can increase your risk for cancers caused by HPV and HPV-related disease.
Can I have HPV and HIV at the same time?
Yes, you can have both viruses in the body at the same time. Both viruses are spread through sexual contact, so getting infected with both viruses at the same time is common. Additionally, because people living with HIV have a weakened immune system, they are at higher risk of contracting HPV that causes genital warts and cancers caused by HPV.
Source: HPV infection and increased risk of HIV acquisition. A systematic review and meta-analysis.
Additional resources with reliable information on HPV &HIV:
Can HPV turn into HIV?
No, HPV and HIV are two completely different viruses.
For women & people with a cervix living with HIV, how often should they need to get screened for cervical cancer?
It is very important that women & people with a cervix living with HIV get screened for cervical cancer. HPV causes genital warts and other HPV-related cancers including cervical cancer. Cervical screening to prevent cervical cancer is performed by doing a Pap test on women and people with a cervix. This test checks for cell changes in the cervix.
Newly diagnosed with HIV women and people with a cervix aged 21 to 29 years old, should have a Pap test at the time of initial diagnosis with HIV. When the Pap test result is normal, the next Pap test should occur in 12 months. If the results of three consecutive Pap tests are normal, follow-up Pap tests should be every 3 years.
Some places offer cervical screening through co-testing (Pap test & HPV test;) which is a modernized, accurate, test that is performed the same as a pap test, it screens for types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. This high-performance test is recommended for ALL woman and people with a cervix from the age of 30 (where available).
If co-testing with a Pap test and HPV test is available, then co-testing can be done at the time of their HIV diagnosis or/and at age 30. Women and people with a cervix who co-test negative (i.e., a normal Pap test result and negative HPV test result) should have their next cervical screening in 3 years to screen for types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.
Healthcare professionals can detect genital warts caused by HPV during a medical exam.
IF I have HIV, how can I PROTECT MYSELF FROM HPV?
- People of all ages living with HIV can benefit from receiving vaccination against HPV. The HPV vaccine is safe and highly effective at preventing HPV infections and cancers caused by HPV.
- Schedule and attend your cervical screenings: HPV causes cervical cancer. This virus typically has no signs nor symptoms. It can stay asleep in your body for up to 40 years and later surface as a cancer, this is why it is critical to get your routine cervical screening.
- Take your antiretroviral medications regularly to help strengthen your immune system.
I Am Living With HIV- Can I Still Get The HPV Vaccine?
Yes. people living with HIV (PLWH) will respond to the vaccine in a similar way to people who do not have HIV. Vaccination of PLWH and other immunosuppressed individuals is highly recommended up to the age of 26 years because their increased risk of cancers dues to HPV. Some PLWH may benefit from vaccination after age 26, and you should talk with your healthcare provider.