BACKGROUND. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is well known to be associated with head and neck cancers (HNCs). HPV-associated
HNCs are related to sexual behaviour, particularly the lifetime number of oral sex partners, but the epidemiology of oral and oropharyngeal
HPV in South African men has not yet been studied.
Objectives. To determine the oral and oropharyngeal HPV strain prevalence and associated factors in a selected male population in
Pretoria, South Africa (SA).
METHODS. Male factory workers were recruited. Oral rinse and gargle samples were tested for 37 HPV types using the Linear Array HPV
Genotyping Test (Roche Molecular Systems). A questionnaire was used to obtain information regarding age, medical conditions, substance
and alcohol use and sexual behaviour. HIV testing was optional.
RESULTS. The HPV prevalence was 5.6% among men (N=125) aged 17 - 64 years. High-risk HPV (hrHPV) types 16 and 68 were found in
two men. Oral sex seemed to be an uncommon practice in the majority of respondents, but the two respondents with hrHPV did practise
oral sex. There was a statistically significant association between HPV infection and an increased number of sexual partners (p=0.027), but
not between HPV and substance use, HIV status or clinical mucosal pathology.
CONCLUSION. The prevalence of oral and oropharyngeal HPV was lower than reported in other countries. An association between oral HPV
and having multiple sexual partners was found. A larger nationwide study would give a more representative view of the burden of oral and
oropharyngeal HPV infection in SA.