Human papillomavirus (HPV) may speed HIV progression

A virus linked to genital warts and cervical cancer appears to speed up the progression of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to results of a study of laboratory-grown cells. There are many varieties of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), some that cause genital warts and others that cause no symptoms at all. Certain types of HPV greatly increase the risk of cervical cancer.

Since HIV-positive¬†women are more likely to develop cervical cancer or precancerous cervical growths than other women are, it has been assumed that HIV makes women more vulnerable to the effects of HPV. However, new study findings suggest the opposite is true – HPV infection might speed up HIV disease or even make it easier to become infected with HIV, the researcher explained. “We wanted to turn things around a bit,” Martinez-Maza said.

In their study, the investigators found HPV-infected cells released growth factors and immune system-stimulating proteins that had the ability to reawaken a latent HIV infection in immune cells. In response to the HPV-induced growth factors, the HIV-infected cells began churning out new copies of the virus, according to a report in the December issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. Martinez-Maza and his colleagues conclude that HPV infections may enhance the replication of HIV. “An existing HPV infection may make it easier for HIV infection to grow and replicate,” Martinez-Maza said. “Having active HPV infection might enhance HIV disease progression.” Whether women infected with HPV run a greater risk of being infected with HIV remains to be seen, Martinez-Maza said. More study is needed to determine if this is true.


HPV is of course, not just an infection of women or just of the female genital tract. It is also a common infection of the anus in both males and females, both hetero and homosexuals.

Ref: Obstetrics and Gynecology 2000;96:879-885.

Source: CDC HIV/STD/TB Prevention News Update

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