Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common infection, which is transmitted sexually. Many sexually active people will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives and most people will have no symptoms. People often clear HPV infection without treatment.

Some strains of HPV cause anal and genital warts, and other strains can cause cell changes that may lead to anal or cervical cancer. Rates of anal cancer are higher in gay men than heterosexual men, and higher rates of anal cancer are seen in HIV-positive gay men. Researchers wanted to investigate whether it was the persistence of anal HPV infection that caused the increased risk of cancer. They found that overall rates of anal HPV infection were

higher in gay men, and the infection was more likely to persist.

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Although rates of anal cancer are significantly higher in men who have sex with men, it is still a very rare cancer and there is a lot of debate about the value of screening gay men for pre-cancerous anal cell changes caused by HPV. If you have questions or concerns about your own situation, it’s a good idea to talk to your HIV doctor or someone else in your healthcare team.