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Study Finds HPV Common in Young Sexually Active Gay Men

Update Date: Dec 06, 2013 03:26 PM EST
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The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that could lead to genital warts, oral cancer and cervical cancer. Due to the dangers of cervical cancer, young girls have been recommended to get the HPV vaccine, which protects them from certain strains of HPV. However, since HPV is a STI, young boys have been recommended to get the vaccine as well. In a new study, researchers found that HPV is very common in young, sexually active gay men.

"In this study we found rates of anal infection increased rapidly with increasing numbers of partners with whom they have received anal sex," senior author Marcus Y. Chen said reported by Reuters Health. "The virus is presumably being transmitted from penis to anus."

For this study, the researchers examined 200 men who have sex with other men. The men were between the ages of 16 and 20 with a median age of 19. The researchers administered questionnaires for information on the participant's sexual history. Chen and his colleagues found that men who had over four sexual partners had a greater risk of contracting HPV. The team found that one third of them tested positive for the high-risk strains of HPV. 11 percent of them had two or more strains of HPV. The researchers also found that men who vaginal and or anal sex were more likely to have penile HPV. Around 10 percent of men who stated that they have never had anal sex had anal HPV.

"Our study found that gay male teens acquire the HPV virus including HPV 16 very soon after they first become sexually active," Chen said. "This means that the HPV vaccine, which has been shown to be effective in preventing HPV infection in males, including anal infection in gay men, needs to be given very early on, preferably before gay teens start to have sex."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around half of the people who are sexually active have had HPV. HPV usually clears up with the help of the immune system but the more fatal strains could cause cancers and genital warts. The CDC recommends that both girls and boys get vaccinated at around the ages of 11 or 12, before they become sexually active.

The study was published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

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