HPV associated with increased risk of HIV infection in men, study finds

Nov. 20, 2013

A study of 2,519 Kenyan men conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina revealed that infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) was associated with a higher subsequent risk of infection with HIV, a precursor to AIDS.

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Dr. Jennifer Smith

The study, published online in the journal AIDS, was authored by Jennifer Smith, PhD, research associate professor of epidemiology in UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Anne Rositch, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology and public health in the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine.

“These data from Kenya add to a mounting evidence showing a higher risk of HIV acquisition among individuals with genital HPV infections,” Smith said.

Men in the study with at least one occurrence of HPV infection faced double the risk of acquiring HIV, and those with three or more HPV infections had more than three times the risk of developing HIV.  This pattern was consistent in both circumcised and uncircumcised men.

“With the current observational studies it remains unclear whether there is a role for HPV vaccination to reduce risk of HIV acquisition,” said Rositch, the study’s lead author. However, prophylactic HPV vaccination has been shown to prevent against HPV-associated cancers.

Results are drawn from a randomized clinical trial conducted from 2002 to 2007 in Kisumu, Kenya, to determine the effectiveness of circumcision in reducing the incidence of HIV infection. A total of 61 men developed HIV during the trial.

While the links between HPV infection and HIV in women have been studied widely, data about similar associations among men are limited. HIV is the leading cause of death in Kenya. While sub-Saharan Africa leads the world in HIV infections and death, the worldwide impact of the virus claims between 1.5 million and 1.9 million people each year, according to the World Health Organization.

HPV infection is the primary cause of several genital cancers, including cervical cancer in females and anal cancer in both men and women. Along with AIDS-related malignancies, epidemic levels of HPV infection contribute to the growing cancer burden experienced by nations in less-developed countries.

The National Institutes of Health has recommended that women receive a single dose of HPV vaccine to protect themselves against the virus. Smith said that she would like to see greater efforts to link those vaccinations with global databases on the incidence of HIV and HPV.

“It will be important to link future vaccination status with HIV incidence databases on the population-level to examine the impact of HPV vaccination coverage on the incidence of new HIV infections,” Smith said.


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Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu