Researchers from the School of Nursing are distributing take-home self-sampling kits to detect HPV in HIV-positive women in DC as part of an ongoing study.
Daisy Le, assistant professor of health disparities and oncology, leads the My share study that distributed 40 HPV self-test kits to women at high risk of contracting HPV as an alternative screening method at the start of the spring semester. She said the lab detected HPV in 40% of the 25 tests returned by participants, allowing doctors to speed up treatment and prevent the development of cervical cancer at an early stage.
Le said the team plans to continue collecting participant samples over the summer to achieve a larger sample size. She said 50 women need to apply for the study to receive more funding from the National Institutes of Health and expand to more participants. She said she hopes the study can partner with local health departments to distribute HPV self-test kits to all HIV-positive women nationwide within the next five to 10 years.
“There are so many things in terms of goals that we want to eliminate cervical cancer because we have HPV vaccines, we have HPV screening itself as not just being a subtest for HPV test, we have pap smear, we can use all of this to catch cervical cancer before it becomes cancer and help a woman live longer,” a- she declared.
Le said the team designed their testing packages to include a packet of step-by-step instructions and a copy of their pre-signed consent to participate form, HPV health education materials, and a pap smear — a test kit of a brush for the vaginal area and an anal swab, a transparent envelope for collections and a box for participants to send their results to the laboratory to detect HPV.
She said participants should collect both samples from the vaginal and anal regions, submit their sample collections by mail, and have the lab observe if the same HPV strain is consistent in both areas to determine if a participant has HPV. .
Le said participants can also choose to sign up for a text messaging program to receive information about HPV and cervical cancer prevention for a few weeks, which is offered in test kits. .
Le said the study is targeting DC because it is home to a high HIV-positive population — more than 12,400 residents were living with HIV in 2019, according to DC Health. The rate of new HIV diagnoses per 100,000 district residents was the highest in the United States, with a total of 39.1 in 2018, according to data from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.
HIV-positive women are six times more likely to develop cervical cancer than women living without HIV because they have an increased risk of contracting HPV, which causes rapid cancer progression and higher rates of recurrence. elevated after treatment, according to a 2020 Global Health Study. Liberation from the organization.
“That’s why we have the public health field,” she said. “It’s about trying to catch things early enough because cervical cancer is highly preventable.”
Le said the research team conducted in-depth interviews with DC health care providers and held focus group discussions with 39 HIV-positive women during the first phase of the study two years ago.
She said the team collected information on the women’s history, their knowledge of cervical cancer and HPV and whether they had had a pap smear within the recommended timeframe, which is once a year. . She said the women’s responses have improved HPV self-testing kit tools, such as providing easy-to-follow instructions for HIV-positive women with little knowledge about HPV and cervical cancer.
“We were working with the community, talking with them about their main concerns, what they hadn’t seen in terms of health promotion and intervention and what they weren’t seeing in the community on which they wanted us to focus on,” she said. noted.
Reproductive health and HPV experts have said self-testing kits and MySHARE text messages are effective measures to increase HIV-positive women’s accessibility to HPV testing and awareness of cervical cancer.
Chemtai Mungo, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said MySHARE can help increase accessibility to home screening tests because participants can send in their self-tests. -HPV sampling at their health clinics, reducing the need to travel. .
She said the study provides an alternative screening option that benefits patients who have transportation issues and prefer to wait until they receive a positive HPV test to see a doctor.
“Using technology to collect information that helps to fight myths helps with health education – it’s a great way to quickly get knowledge to where women are so they don’t have to go to the clinic or pick them up,” she said.
Gina Ogilvie – the Canada Research Chair in the Global Control of HPV-Related Diseases and Cancers, an organization of experts in HPV prevention – said the MySHARE study’s focus on the population of HIV-positive women is important. because they can contract one of the 200 types of HPV that exist.
“Particularly in the United States with health coverage, it’s something that can be done,” she said. “You just give someone a kit and they can take care of it on their own, so you can really focus on resources for HPV-positive women.”
Richard Schlegel, professor of pathology at Georgetown University, said self-sampling kits simplify the HPV testing process, eliminating steps such as health clinic appointments and expanding accessibility. health care for HIV-positive women.
He said the project would be a “step forward” for cervical cancer prevention, especially in areas of the United States that lack adequate healthcare facilities, such as city communities. located along the Appalachian Trail, to screen all women who are HIV-positive for HPV. .
“At the end of the day, I think it would be great not only in our country but also in developing countries where it’s difficult to get people to engage in clinics on a regular basis,” he said.