Men with human papillomavirus (HPV) have an increased risk of contracting HIV compared with men without HPV, according to a study in The Journal of Infectious Diseases and reported by the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.

Researchers followed uncircumcised men in Kenya ranging from ages 18 to 24 for an average of 24 to 42 months. At the beginning of the study, half of the 2,168 men displayed detectable HPV cells on the skin of their penis.

After three and a half years, 5.8 percent of the men who tested positive for HPV at the beginning of the study were also HIV positive, compared with 3.7 percent of the men who did not have HPV at the start of the study.

Since HPV cells are known to cause lesions on the skin in the genital area and to decrease the alertness of the immune system, researchers concluded that the men became more susceptible to contracting HIV.  

“If our findings are confirmed in other studies, then HPV prevention could become an effective tool for HIV prevention,” said Jennifer S. Smith, PhD, lead author of the study, and research associate professor of epidemiology in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. “Vaccinating young men [against HPV] before they become sexually active could potentially help prevent the spread of HIV.”