Prevention & Screening




WHat can people living with hiv (PLWH) do to prevent cancer?

  • Take highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). PLWH on long-term HAART have lower or undetectable HIV viral loads and higher or normal CD4+ T cell counts than PLWH not on long-term HAART. Lower viral loads and higher CD4+ T cell counts are associated with healthier immune function and can prevent cancer and infection.

  • Practice safe sex. Not only do safe sexual practices like the use of condoms help to prevent the spread of HIV, they also helps to prevent the spread of cancer-causing viruses like human papilloma virus (HPV), hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), and human herpes virus 8 (HHV-8) and human T-lymphotrophic virus 1 (HTLV-1).

  • Get tested and treated for HBV and HCV. Chronic HBV and HCV infection put you at risk for a type of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). HBV and HCV testing are recommended for PLWH.

HBV and HCV can be transmitted sexually or through the blood and can cause HCC. PLWH should be tested for HBV and HCV. Both are usually treatable with antiviral medication. It is important to continue HAART while being treated for HBV or HCV. Certain antiviral medications can interfere with HIV medication, so it is important to communicate with your doctor regarding what HIV medicine you take.

Click on the images to the left and right to learn more about HBV and HCV in PLWH from the

National Health Institute's HIV website.

  • Get vaccinated against HPV and HBV. Vaccination can prevent infection in patients who are not already infected with the virus.

  • Stop smoking and consuming alcohol. Smoking and alcohol consumption puts people with and without HIV at risk for several types of cancer.

  • Stop IV drug use or use clean needles. Using clean needles or stopping IV drug use helps to prevent the spread of HIV, and also helps to prevent the spread of cancer-causing viruses like human papilloma virus (HPV), hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), and human herpes virus 8 (HHV-8) and human T-lymphotrophic virus 1 (HTLV-1).

  • Live a healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet, frequent physical activity, and healthy body weight help to prevent cancer in people with and without HIV.

WHat can PLWH do to find cancer early?

  • Get recommended cancer screenings. Cancer screenings look for cancer in people without symptoms with the goal of detecting cancer at an early, more treatable stage. Examples of cancer screenings include colonoscopies, Pap smears, and mammograms. Growing evidence suggests that anal smears may be important tools in detecting anal cancer in PLWH, but this is not yet an established guideline. Ask your provider about cancer screenings you are eligible for.

  • Schedule routine health visits with your doctor and share any new or unexplained symptoms you are experiencing. Symptoms of cancer may include unexpected weight loss, night sweats, enlarged lymph nodes, blood in the stool, or skin lesions. If your provider suspects that you are experiencing symptoms related to cancer, testing can be done to confirm a diagnosis and direct treatment.


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HPV and cancer. National Cancer Institute. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

Park LS, Hernández-Ramírez RU, Silverberg MJ, Crothers K, Dubrow R. Prevalence of non-HIV cancer risk factors in persons living with HIV/AIDS: a meta-analysis. AIDS. 2016 Jan;30(2):273-91. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000922. PMID: 26691548; PMCID: PMC4689318.

Robbins HA, Shiels MS, Pfeiffer RM, Engels EA. Epidemiologic contributions to recent cancer trends among HIV-infected people in the United States. AIDS. 2014 Mar 27;28(6):881-90. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000163. PMID: 24300545; PMCID: PMC5015650.

What can people with HIV or AIDS do to try to lower their risk of cancer or find it early? American Cancer Society Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

All data and information provided on comes from peer-reviewed sources. Publications from which data are obtained are listed at the bottom of figures or each page