Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, given to older gay men, could prevent the transmission of strains of the virus that lead to anal cancer, aidsmap reports. Between 2010 and 2013, Australian researchers studied 342 gay men ages 35 or older who were tested at the outset for the strains of HPV covered by the currently available Gardasil vaccine and by the vaccine in development by Merck. They presented their findings at the 7th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2013) in Kuala Lumpur.

Anal cancer is particularly prevalent among HIV-positive gay men, who have a rate of 100 cases per 100,000 people.

The study population had a median age of 49, with a range of 35 to 79. Twenty-nine percent of them were HIV positive. Over a three-year follow-up period, the participants were tested for new high-risk HPV infections.

At the study’s outset, 51 percent of the men were infected with a Gardasil-covered strain of HPV and 27 percent with the Merck vaccine-covered strains. Each year of the study, one in five men became newly infected with a strain covered by Gardasil and 27 percent with a strain covered by Merck’s vaccine.

Having HIV was linked both to infection with cancer-causing HPV at the study’s outset and to new infections with those strains during the follow-up period. There was no correlation between age and likelihood of HPV infection.

To read the aidsmap story, click here.