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Nearly 60% of urban gay men have anal HPV infection

Nearly 60% of urban gay men have anal HPV infection

A study published in the December 15 edition of the Journal of Infectious Diseases shows that nearly 60% of urban HIV-negative gay men in the Untied States have an anal infection of human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted virus that can cause anal and genital warts and in some cases lead to anal cancer. The risk of being infected with HPV was not affected by age, according to the researchers, but was linked with having higher numbers of sex partners. There are as many as 100 different strains of HPV, some of which can cause precancerous anal lesions and anal cancer. More than 1,200 HIV-negative urban gay men age 16 or older who had anal intercourse with another man at least once were surveyed between January 2001 and October 2002. Study participants reported on their sexual activity and received anal swabs to test for HPV infection. Overall, 57% tested positive for HPV infection. The most common strain detected was HPV-16, which is a high-risk genotype for the development of precancerous lesions and anal cancer. All told, 26% of the men tested were infected with HPV-16 or another high-risk strain of the virus. Forty-five percent of the men tested were infected with multiple strains. "The striking finding of the present study is that urban HIV-negative [gay men] have high rates of anal HPV infection across all age groups", write the investigators. "Therefore, a high proportion of HIV-negative [gay men] may be at risk of developing anal cancer." The main risk factor for anal HPV infection was the number of sex partners during the six months prior to being surveyed, according to the researchers. The higher the number of anal sex partners, the more likely the study subject carried HPV in their anal canals. Seventy-seven percent of the study participants reported having receptive anal sex during the previous six months, and study participants reported a median of eight sexual partners in the previous six months.

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