Young sexual minority men (SMM) exhibit a high prevalence and incidence of high-risk genotypes of human papillomavirus (hrHPV) anal infections and a confluence of a high prevalence of HIV and rectal STIs. Social determinants of health (SDOHs) are linked to social network contexts that generate and maintain racial disparities in HIV and STIs. A network perspective was provided to advance our knowledge of drivers of genotype-specific hrHPV infection and coinfection with HIV. The study also examined whether socially connected men are infected with the same high-risk HPV genotypes and, if so, whether this tendency is conditioned on coinfection with HIV.
Our sample included 136 young SMM of predominantly black race and their network members of other races and ethnicities, aged 18–29 years, who resided in Houston, Texas, USA. These participants were recruited during 2014–2016 at the baseline recruitment period by network-based peer referral, where anal exfoliated cells and named social and sexual partners were collected. Exponential random graph models were estimated to assess similarity in genotype-specific hrHPV anal infection in social connections and coinfection with HIV in consideration of the effects of similarity in sociodemographic, sexual behavioural characteristics, SDOHs and syphilis infection.
Pairs of men socially connected to each other tend to be infected with the same hrHPV genotypes of HPV-16, HPV-45 and HPV-51 or HPV-16 and/or HPV-18. The tendency of social connections between pairs of men who were infected with either HPV-16 or HPV-18 were conditioned on HIV infection.
Networked patterns of hrHPV infection could be amenable to network-based HPV prevention interventions that engage young SMM of predominantly racial minority groups who are out of HIV care and vulnerable to high-risk HPV acquisition.