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Background Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer worldwide among women, with the number of new cases increasing from 493 243 in 2002 to 527 000 in 2012. These numbers are likely to be underestimated because given the lack of registration resources, cervical cancer deaths are usually under-reported in low-income countries.Aim To describe the distribution of and trends in visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) to detected cervical abnormalities in Swaziland by reviewing records of VIA examinations performed at two main hospitals in Swaziland between 2011 and 2014.Setting Mbabane Government Hospital and Realign Fitkin Memorial (RFM).Methods Records of cervical screening using VIA at the Mbabane government hospital and RFM hospital between 2011 and 2014 were retrieved. Positivity rates (PRs) of VIA with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were calculated and used as proxies of cervical abnormalities. Odds ratios of the association between VIA-detected cervical abnormalities and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status were estimated using logistic regressions.Results VIA was positive in 1828 of 12 151 VIA records used for analysis (15%, 95% CI: 14.4-15.7). VIA was positive in 9% (36 of 403) women under the age of 20, in 15.5% (1714 of 11 046) of women aged 20-49 years and in 11.1% (78 of 624) of women aged 50-64 years. A decreasing trend of VIA positivity was observed over time at both screening centres (p for trend < 0.001). Of 2697 records with Papanicolaou results, 20% (67 of 331) VIA-positives and only 5% (114 of 2366) VIA negatives had high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion. Among 4578 women with reported HIV status, 1702 were HIV-positive (37.2%, 95% CI: 35.8-38.6). The prevalence of HIV in VIA-positive women was 62.5% (95% CI: 58.7-66.2), almost double that among VIA-negative women (33.0%, 95% CI: 31.6-34.5) and that among all women screened (p < 0.001). HIV-positive women were 3.4 times more likely to have cervical abnormalities on VIA than HIV-negative women (OR: 3.4, 95% CI: 2.8-4.0, p < 0.01).Conclusion The high VIA PRs observed over four years in this study may reflect the prevalence of cervical abnormalities, in particular, in HIV-positive women. VIA is not a robust screening test, but it can play a major role in strengthening and expanding cervical cancer screening prevention programmes in resource-limited countries.

Original publication





African journal of primary health care & family medicine

Publication Date





e1 - e7


Discipline of Public Health Medicine, School of Nursing and Public Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal.


Cervix Uteri, Humans, HIV Infections, Acetic Acid, Risk Factors, Retrospective Studies, Age Factors, Adolescent, Adult, Middle Aged, Uterine Cervical Neoplasms, Female, Early Detection of Cancer, Young Adult, Eswatini