An article in NAM aidsmap reported on a study of men with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection of the penis and risk of contracting HIV. Since HPV infection of the cervix is associated with higher risk of HIV for women, researchers investigated whether penile HPV infection increased HIV risk for men and whether circumcision altered the risk.
The researchers conducted a prospective cohort study with approximately 2,500 men ages 19–24 in Kisumu, Kenya, who were part of a randomized-controlled trial of the impact of circumcision on HIV risk. All the participants were HIV-negative at baseline. Researchers checked them for penile HPV and screened for HIV every six months. During a median of 30 months’ follow-up, 61 participants (2.4 percent) tested positive for HIV.
Results show that participants who were circumcised were significantly less likely to become HIV-positive than those who were uncircumcised. Of the participants who acquired HIV, 61 percent had penile HPV, and 46 percent had the strains of HPV associated with a high risk of anogenital cancers. Participants infected with any strain of HPV had twice the risk of acquiring HIV compared to HPV-uninfected individuals. The greater number of HPV strains detected on an individual’s penis, the higher the risk of acquiring HIV. Men infected with only HPV types 16 and 18 had the highest risk of acquiring HIV. The researchers concluded that HIV incidence was highest for men with persistent HPV or who had recently cleared HPV infections. Also, circumcision did not alter the association between penile HPV infection and risk of HIV.
The full report, “Risk of HIV Acquisition Among Circumcised and Uncircumcised Young Men with Penile HPV Infection,” was published online in the journal AIDS (2013; doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000092).