Homosexuals and HPV

If you are a gay man or woman, you might be wondering if you need to screen for HPV through pap cervical or anal smears. It's important to know that HPV can be contracted not only by penile penetration of the vagina. HPV can be passed through other forms of skin to skin contact and even through oral to skin contact, for instance, through oral sex.

The Disease Is Much Less Prevalent Among The Lesbian And Gay Community

A study underway at the University of Washington has found that many lesbian women have the human papillomavirus (HPV), even among those who have never had sex with a man. Researchers do believe, however, that the disease is much less prevalent among the lesbian and gay community, since the greatest risk of contagion seems to come from heterosexual sexual intercourse. The rates of contagion among the lesbian population are not low enough to risk skipping regular pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. Both lesbian and straight women should insist on having regular pap smears as part of a preventative health regimen.

Over 65% Of HIV Negative Gay Men Have HPV

As for gay men, it turns out that over 65% of HIV negative gay men have HPV, not an insignificant number. The presence of HPV in men is determined by an anal pap smear. A male anal pap smear is taken in much the same way that a cervical pap smear is taken. Cells are also obtained from the penis head and shaft with a small file. The procedure is not painful, but it is uncomfortable.

Until now, doctors have not recommended that men have injections of Gardasil, the vaccine for HPV. However, the manufacturers of the HPV vaccine, Merck, are now running trials to discover whether the vaccine is safe and effective for men. In general, HPV poses no risk to men, however there is concern that anal sex with an infected partner can bring on anal warts, leading to anal cancer in gay men. For the purposes of the study, Merck is seeking gay men who have had less than 5 male sexual partners and the trial takes three years. So far, there are 4000 men taking part in the trial for male use of Gardasil.

It's important to keep in mind that only 1% of sexually active men are diagnosed with anal cancer per year and that only certain strains of the HPV virus are considered to be a cause of this cancer, but the rates of contracting anal cancer are 35 times higher in gay and in bisexual men.