Immunization Science

Risk of HPV Infection After Sexual Debut

The article

Risk of Female Human Papillomavirus Acquisition Associated with First Male Sex Partner. Winer RL, Feng Q, Hughes JP, et al. The Journal of Infectious Diseases 2008;197:279–282.

The question

What is the risk of a woman becoming infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) with her first male sex partner?

The study

This study included 244 female students between 18 and 22 years of age who were recruited for a longitudinal study of genital HPV infections. Of these, 130 who had never had vaginal intercourse or had had their first intercourse with one male partner within the previous 3 months were the subjects of this study. If a woman had a second sexual partner, she was excluded from further analysis.

The women kept a Web based diary to report her sexual activity. Every 4 months the women were examined and laboratory tests for genital HPV infection were obtained. The researchers calculated the time from first intercourse to the first time genital HPV was detected.

The results

Five women had pre-existing genital HPV infection and were excluded from further analysis. Of the remaining women, within 1 year after their first intercourse, almost 30% tested positive for genital HPV; after 3 years, 49% tested positive.

There was an increased risk for acquiring HPV from a male if he had had 2 or more previous sex partners.

The relevance/bottom line

Women are at high risk of acquiring HPV infection from her first male sex partner; the risk is increased by the partner’s prior sexual experience. Five women had genital HPV detected prior to having vaginal intercourse.

NNii’s comment

Genital HPV infection occurs frequently in women within 1 year of their first male sex partner. Some women acquired genital HPV infection prior to having vaginal intercourse, suggesting that they may have had unreported sexual contact or nonpenetrative sexual contact. To be most effective, HPV vaccine should be administered prior to sexual debut.