Integration of human papillomavirus associated anal cancer screening into HIV care and treatment program in Pakistan: Perceptions of policymakers, managers, and care providers

Document Type



Community Health Sciences; School of Nursing and Midwifery, Pakistan


Background: The incidence of anal cancer, largely associated with anal human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, is increasing among men who have sex with men (MSM), and transgender women living with or without HIV. Screening for anal cancer to detect anal precancerous lesions in high-risk groups is an important opportunity for prevention but still lacking in many low-and-middle-income countries. The aim of this study was to explore the readiness of Pakistan's healthcare system to integrate anal cancer and HPV screening into a national HIV program, as perceived by policymakers, health managers, and healthcare providers.
Design: This qualitative study using key-informant interviews with participants influence in policy making, implementation and advocacy from public and private sector were conducted between March 2021 to August 2021 in Karachi Pakistan.
Methods: Key informants were purposely selected from different domains of the healthcare system responsible for the target group of interest, MSM and transgender-women in general and people living with HIV in particular. A total of 18 key informants, at different levels of seniority were recruited from governmental and non-governmental organizations, high-level infectious disease healthcare managers, and United Nations Program representatives. Qualitative content analysis was used to identify the manifest and latent themes, based on socioecological framework.
Results: The results were grouped into five major themes; (1) The policy context and priorities, (2) Health systems factors, (3) Community environment, (4) Healthcare setting & providers and (5) Individual-level obstacles. The policy actors expressed their concerns about their limited voice in country's health and health related priority setting. Informants reported a lack of political will and suggested that government should bring a change in the paradigm of healthcare service delivery from reactive to proactive approach. Although, participants unanimously favored integration of HPV preventive services into existing HIV program, they also identified several service delivery barriers including trained workforce shortage, limited capacity of information technology, lack of supplies needed for screening, lack of financing, and lack of services that could meet key-populations needs. Participants also predicted other implementation challenges such as stigma, social victimization, and systemic discrimination against at-risk groups at healthcare facilities.
Conclusion: Although policy makers and health providers in Pakistan saw a clear need to scale-up and integrate anal cancer screening for key populations, the feasibility of this is dependent on political will, financing, anti-stigma and discrimination interventions and health system efficiency.


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Publication (Name of Journal)

BMC Public Health