Cervical screening: information for people with HIV

In the foreground, a healthcare professional in a white coat is putting a swab into a container. In the background, blurred, we can see a woman with long hair sat on a clinic bed.
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Smear tests (also known as cervical screening) look at the health of your cervix. The test is done to check for certain, high-risk types of HPV (human papillomavirus). Some types of HPV can cause cancer if left untreated over many years.

In the UK, a smear test is usually done at the GP, but your HIV clinic may offer it. Women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 should be invited by letter. Usually, this is every three years, but people with HIV are advised to test every year. It might be useful to make a note of when your smear test is due each year as it’s likely you will only receive a letter reminder every three years.

If you contact your GP for an appointment without a letter, the receptionist may ask why you need one. If you do not feel comfortable sharing your HIV status, you can explain that you have a health condition requiring you to get an annual smear test.

The HPV vaccine helps protect against some cancers, including cervical cancer. The British HIV Association (BHIVA) recommends that all women with HIV under the age of 40 have the HPV vaccine.

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