Older HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM) are at greater risk for strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause anal cancer when compared with older HIV-negative MSM. Publishing their findings in PLOS ONE, researchers studied 1,296 men between the ages of 40 and 69 from the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, about half of whom were HIV positive, examining them semi-annually for up to a quarter century.

The investigators found that, when compared with those without HIV, the HIV-positive men had a 35 to 92 percent higher prevalence of HPV strains representing a wide spectrum of lower- to high-risk for anal cancer. They also found that, among the men with HIV, a higher CD4 count was linked to a lower likelihood of having types of HPV that are either a probable or possible cause of malignancy.

Among all the men, a higher number of reported partners with whom they had receptive anal intercourse (RAI) over the previous 24 months was associated with a greater risk of the higher-risk strains of HPV. Those men who reported at least 30 lifetime male sex partners before their entry into the study and those who reported one or more RAI partners during the two years before receiving an HPV test had a respective 17 to 24 percent and 13 to 17 percent greater prevalence of the lower-risk HPV strains.

Men who reported smoking between their first visit to the study and the two-year mark before their first HPV test had a 1.2-times greater prevalence of the strains of the virus that are probable or possible causes of cancer.

Adhering to antiretrovirals (ARVs) and having an undetectable viral load lowered the likelihood of having the highest-risk strains of HPV among HIV-positive MSM.

The researchers concluded that long-term monogamy, quitting smoking and effective ARV treatment among HIV-positive MSM specifically are key prevention strategies against HPV infections that are linked to anal cancer.

To read the study, click here.

To read a news release on the study, click here.