If you have sexual intercourse with someone who is HIV+ it doesn’t automatically mean that you will become HIV+. The risk decreases if you wear a condom quite significantly, but there are factors that can increase the risk of transmission, and one of them is having another STI, or HPV.
According to Dr Catherine Houlihan these findings are “particularly interesting because HPV is one of the commonest sexually transmitted infections across the world, and it is possible to prevent infection of some types of HPV using a currently available vaccine. It was therefore important to critically review the published studies, and consider combining the data.” She and her colleagues did just that, and their findings were published online in the journal Aids.
Dr Houlihan continues “The studies in women suggest with reasonable consistency that, in populations with high incidence of HIV, being infected with HPV may increase the risk of becoming HIV positive. However, there are over 40 genotypes of HPV that infect the human genital tract, and current HPV vaccines only directly cover four of those genotypes. There are currently insufficient data on associations with vaccine types to allow reliable estimates of the potential impact of HPV vaccination on HIV incidence.”
Dr Houlihan emphasised that current vaccines “are important in the prevention of cervical cancer and should continue to be promoted as such. More evidence is needed to evaluate their potential role in modifying HIV risk.”
The studies had their share of problems, Dr Houlihan said. For example, “important confounders such as sexual behaviour and some sexually transmitted diseases were not always accounted for. None of the studies were designed or powered to detect HPV as a risk factor for HIV, and most of them were in populations at high risk of HIV, such as sex workers.”
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