It is unknown whether reactivation of human papillomavirus (HPV) after latency occurs in the anus. We measured incidence and predictors of incident anal HPV in sexually inactive gay and bisexual men (GBM) as a surrogate of HPV reactivation.


The Study of the Prevention of Anal Cancer collected data on sexual behavior, anal cytology, HPV DNA, histology and HPV serology. HPV incidence during periods when zero sexual partners were reported in the last six months at both the current and previous annual visit (“no sexual activity”) was analyzed by Cox regression using the Wei-Lin-Weissfeld method to determine univariable predictors.


Of 617 men enrolled, 525 had results for ≥2 visits, of whom 58 (11%) had ≥ one period of “no sexual activity”. During sexually inactive periods, there were 29 incident high risk HPV infections in 20 men, which occurred more commonly in older men (Ptrend = 0.010), HIV-positive men (HR = 3.12; 95% CI, 0.91–16.65), longer duration of HIV (Ptrend = 0.028), history of AIDS defining illness (P = 0.010), lower current (P = 0.010) and nadir CD4 count (P = 0.014). For 18 of 29 infections with available results, 12 men remained type-specific HRHPV L1 seronegative. None were consistently seropositive. A new diagnosis of HSIL occurred in only two men, caused by an HPV type other than the incident type.


Our findings suggest that in sexually inactive GBM, anal HRHPV incidence is relatively common, and is associated with increasing age and immune dysfunction, a pattern consistent with HPV reactivation.


Reactivation of anal HPV may occur.

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