Purpose of review: Although cervical cancer is preventable, it is the leading cancer among women in southern Africa. The association of high-risk human papillomavirus (HR-HPV) with almost all invasive cervical cancers has led to the development of effective primary and secondary prevention measures. This review focuses on updated and new evidence of the epidemiology of HPV and HPV-based secondary prevention in southern Africa.
Recent findings: HR-HPV prevalence in southern Africa differs between regions, and varies most by HIV prevalence and age. HR-HPV prevalence among women living with HIV (WLWH) is reported between 29 and 59.7%, and between 16.2 and 25.2% among women without HIV. HPV16 is the most common HR-HPV type present in invasive cervical cancers in the region; and vaccination may potentially prevent approximately 80% of these cancers. Concerning preliminary data suggests faster development of new cervical precancer within a short follow-up period.
Summary: We need tools that identify the small number of women with precancer from the many with transient HR-HPV infection in southern Africa. The high-volume of test-positive women leads to challenges in managing triage in a HR-HPV-based screening program. Longitudinal data from the entire region is urgently needed to guide effective implementation of HPV-based screening programs.