Women risk HPV infection from first sex partner

Reuters Health E-Line
21 February 2008
Will Boggs, MD

NEW YORK (Reuters Health)—Women run a significant risk of acquiring human papillomavirus (HPV) from their very first sex partner, according to a new report.

Human papillomavirus or HPV is the cause of genital warts, as well as most cases of cervical cancer.

“HPV infections are common among newly sexually active young women, even in those reporting only one partner,” Dr. Rachel L. Winer told Reuters Health. Therefore, she pointed out, the new HPV vaccines will have the greatest impact when they’re given before young women become sexually active.

Winer, from the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues attempted to determine the risk of HPV infection in 244 young women enrolled in a study before or within 3 months of their first intercourse. They were followed for up to three years. Women who acquired a second sex partner during follow-up were excluded from the analysis.

Within 12 months of intercourse with their first sex partner, 29% of the women tested positive for HPV, the researchers report in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. After 24 months, the cumulative rate of HPV infection increased to 39%, and at 36 months it was 49%.

The investigators found that the only factor associated with risk of HPV infection was the male partner’s number of previous partners.

“Our previous work has shown high rates of female HPV infection following sexual debut,” Winer said. “Therefore, it is not surprising to see a high risk of infection from a first male partner.”

She added, “It is important to encourage condom use with all new partners, and regular Pap smear screening.”

SOURCE: Journal of Infectious Diseases, January 15, 2008.

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