While globally cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer and the fourth leading cause of cancer death among women.
In the United Republic of Tanzania, it is the leading cause of cancer-related morbidity and mortality among women.
Similar trends observed in many Sub-Saharan African Countries. Data shows that one-tenth of the estimated 72,000 new cases and 56,000 cervical cancer deaths in Sub-Saharan countries in the year 2000 occurred in Tanzania.
About four-fifths of patients diagnosed with cervical cancer die within five years of diagnosis. This low survival rate is mainly due to the advanced stage of disease at presentation and limited access to cervical cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment services.
Women living with HIV are at a greater risk for developing cervical cancer because of higher rates of co-infection with Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is persistent in most cases.
The association between HIV and invasive cervical cancer is complex. With several studies clearly demonstrating an increased risk of precancerous cervical lesions and more rapid progression to cancer among HIV-infected women.
Cervical cancer is an AIDS-defining illness, since women living with HIV who become infected with HPV are more likely to develop pre-invasive lesions that can if, left untreated, quickly progress to invasive cancer- Women living with HIV are four to five times more likely to develop invasive cervical cancer. Studies further suggest that, as women live longer due to access to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), they are at a heightened risk of contracting cervical cancer.
Due to increased risk, HIV-positive women require a more intensive screening schedule.
Care and Treatment Clinic (CTC) sites should provide services for cervical cancer prevention or to be closely linked and refer to women living with HIV to sites providing respective services.
Cervical cancer screening using Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) is the primary screening method and should be done in all sexually active girls and women living with HIV, as soon as one has tested positive for HIV
The client might be required to repeat screening earlier than 3 years or 1 year for Visual Inspection Acetic Acids (VIA) negative and positive, respectively, depending on the clinician’s acumen and decision.