Background:  Decreased numbers of Langerhans cells (LCs) in the cervix of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected women are believed to contribute to the progression of human papilloma virus (HPV)-related squamous intraepithelial lesions. However, this impairment of local immunity has not been well studied in the vulva. The objective of this study was to compare the S100+ LC density in high-grade vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) in HIV-positive and HIV-negative women.

Methods:  HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients with high-grade VIN, 48 (55%) and 40 (45%), respectively, were identified by retrospective chart review. Smoking status of patients was noted. The mean LC count per high-power field (HPF) was determined using S100 immunohistochemical staining. In situ hybridization was performed to detect HPV DNA types 16 and 18.

Results:  Mean S100+ LC counts for HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients were 5.82 and 9.86 per HPF, respectively (p = 0.0026). LC counts in HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients were compared between smoking and nonsmoking groups (HIV-positive p = 0.4812, HIV-negative p = 0.2821).

Conclusions:  HIV-positive patients with high-grade VIN had significantly lower LC counts compared with HIV-negative patients. This suggests that local vulvar immunity as evaluated by S100+ LCs is impaired in HIV-positive women, possibly contributing to the progression of HPV-related vulvar lesions.