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Advocacy

HIV and HPV-related cancers: DARE to talk about it

28/08/2020

It’s not always easy to talk about intimate health care, but sometimes, even though things are a bit awkward, it can protect you and may even save your life.

Positive Women Victoria is part of a group led by Positive Life NSW to promote awareness among people living with HIV of the increased risk positive people face of being diagnosed with anal cancer. This is one of the cancers related to the group of viruses called human papillomaviruses (HPV).

You may be familiar with the fact that HPV can cause genital warts, a sexually transmissible infection. But did you know that almost all cases of cervical cancer, as well as some other cancers, are also caused by some of the viruses in this group? That’s why it’s such a great thing that young people are now being protected from these viruses through a national vaccination program.

But for adults who were not previously vaccinated and have been sexually active, it’s important to know that most of us have likely been exposed to some of these viruses, and that if you’re living with HIV, there’s increased risk of developing cancers of the cervix, and of the anus.

Most women are encouraged by their health care providers to get screened for cervical cancer risk and exposure to HPV, but may not have discussed or be aware of other HPV-related cancers, including anal cancer.

There are things you can do, and being aware of symptoms and changes such as unusual lumps or bleeding as well as having physical examinations, is one. The earlier you pick up any concerns, the more likely it is that there are options to get a better outcome for your health. You can also talk about vaccination, which may be an option for some women.

Positive Life NSW has developed some great information for people with HIV about this area of health, and encourages you to DARE to talk about this important health check.

To find out more visit Positive Life NSW’s blog.