Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest incidence of human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer in the world, which is further aggravated by the burden of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) disease with invasive cervical cancer being an AIDS-defining cancer. The prevalence of HPV infection and associated disease is very high in HIV-infected people and continues to be a problem even after anti-retroviral therapy. In the genital tract, the interaction between HPV and HIV is complex, with infection with multiple HPV types reported to make both women and men more susceptible to HIV infection. Besides the national programmes to vaccinate girls against HPV and screen women for cervical cancer, there should be targeted cervical cancer screening, treatment and prevention programmes introduced into HIV treatment centres. There is evidence that in high HIV prevalence areas, HIV-positive women could cause increases in the prevalence of genital HPV infection in HIV-negative men and so increase the HPV circulating in the community. Condom use and circumcision reduce the acquisition of HIV-1, and also to some extent of HPV. This review will highlight what is known about the interaction of HIV and HPV, with an emphasis on research in Africa.
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