Women who have been diagnosed HIV-positive are at higher risk of being diagnosed with cervical cancer, but HPV testing may ease the distress of undergoing a Pap screening.

A study conducted at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, suggests there may be new methods for HIV-positive women to safely lower the frequency of undergoing a Pap smear screening.

This past March, the United States Preventative Services Task Force modified cervical cancer screening guidelines for women 30 and old and who are HIV-negative. Instead of once every three years, it is now recommended for HIV-negative women to undergo cervical cancer screening once every five years, provided the Pap smear test is normal and they are found negative for human papillomavirus (HPV). While the guidelines have been modified for the HIV-negative woman, there was no update for those who are HIV-positive.

The study involved 420 HIV-positive and 279 HIV-negative women who were enrolled in the Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS). Researchers observed whether the amount of cervical cancer screenings can be lowered for those HIV-positive women, whose Pap screening return normal and no signs or evidence of cervical cancer.

At the start of the study, all the participant's Pap smears screening were found normal and they all tested negative for cancer-related HPV types. Each participant's rates of precancer and cancer were evaluated after three and five years of follow-up.

Following the three and five years mark, the rate of cervical precancer was comparable to both HIV-negative and HIV-positive participants. However, there were no cases of cervical cancer found.

According to lead author Marla Keller, M.D., associate professor of medicine and of obstetrics & gynecology and women's health at Einstein and attending physician, medicine at Montefiore, the results demonstrated the likelihood that HPV and Pap co-testing could be used to lower the woes of frequently having to endure Pap screening, especially for the HIV-positive woman who already endures long-term clinical follow-up.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.