Determining the prevalence of high-risk human papillomavirus infection using a novel cervical precancer screening approach in incarcerated women at the Nsawam Medium Security Prison, Ghana

14 Jun 2021
Lawrence Kofi Acheampong, Kofi Effah, Joseph Emmanuel Amuah, Ethel Tekpor, Comfort Mawusi Wormenor, Isaac Gedzah, Seyram Kemawor, Ateba Cynthia Kachana, Peace Afi Danso, Nana Owusu Mensah Essel, Mabel Asomaning, Dominic Agyiri, Patrick Kafui Akakpo

Background: Across Ghana, females comprise 1.2% of the entire prison population (n = 15,463). Cervical cancer screening services are however nonexistent and the prevalence of high-risk human papillomavirus (hr-HPV) and cervical precancer is undocumented. We aimed to screen and treat inmates for cervical precancer and determine the prevalence of hr-HPV using the novel AmpFire HPV detection system combined with colposcopy by trained nurses using a mobile colposcope (the Enhanced Visual Assessment (EVA) system).

Methods: A descriptive cross-sectional study design was employed, involving all incarcerated women at the Nsawam Medium Security Prison, Ghana. After counselling and informed consent, women underwent a structured questionnaire-based interview entered into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Women were co-tested for cervical pre-cancer and hr-HPV by two trained nurses using dry brush cervical samples for 15 hr-HPV types (AmpFire HPV test) after which mobile colposcopy with the EVA system was performed. EVA images were reviewed by a gynaecologist. Frequencies and percentages were used to describe categorical data, while means, standard deviations, medians and interquartile ranges (IQRs) were used to describe continuous data.

Results: 75% of the women were convicts with a median sentence of 5 years (IQR: 2–10 years). Their mean age was 41.1 years (standard deviation: 15.5 years, range: 19–97 years). The self-reported prevalence rate of HIV was 13.1% (95% confidence interval (CI): 7.5%–21.9%), all of whom were receiving treatment. The hr-HPV prevalence rate was 47.6% (CI: 36.9%–58.3%) in the general population of imprisoned women and 63.6% (CI: 35.4%–84.8%) among HIV positive women. Six percent (6%) had lesions on the cervix, of which 3.6% were treated with thermal coagulation and 2.4% were treated with loop electrosurgical excision procedure. The average age of hr-HPV positive women was 37.8 years.

Conclusions: There is a high prevalence of hr-HPV infection among women in custody at the Nsawam Medium Security Prison. These women will benefit from structured cervical cancer prevention services, including treatment for abnormalities that are picked up during such screening.

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