Genital warts are one of the most common forms of the sexually-transmitted disease, but their epidemiology has yet to be thoroughly elucidated. The present study was designed to shed light on the prevalence of clinically-confirmed, self-reported genital warts (GWs) in a representative sample of the university population.
In 2015, a cross-sectional survey was conducted on 11,096 individuals approached at the Students Information Bureau where they came to enroll for a university degree course. Participants completed an anonymous, self-administered questionnaire providing information on their sociodemographic characteristics, sexual behavior, and any history of clinically-diagnosed genital warts. Multivariate logistic regression was then used to identify any factors associated with the disease.
Our analysis was conducted on 9259 questionnaires (83.4%). Participants were a mean 21.8 ± 4.8 years of age, and 59.6% were female. Overall, 124 individuals (1.3%, 95%CI: 1.0–1.6) reported having been diagnosed with genital warts: 48 men (1.3%, 95%CI: 0.9–1.6), and 76 women (1.4% 95%CI: 1.1–1.7). Overall, 22.5% of the sample were vaccinated (1.3% of the males and 36.8% of the females).
The group of respondents aged 30 years or more had the highest incidence of genital warts (males: 5.6%, 95%CI: 2.5–8.6; females: 6.9%, 95%CI: 3.4–10.4). The independent risk factors associated with a history of disease were (for both genders) a history of other sexually-transmitted diseases and ≥2 sex partners in the previous 24 months. A protective role emerged for routine condom use. Additional risk factors associated with genital warts in males concerned men who have sex with men, bisexuality vis-à-vis heterosexuality, and smoking.
The findings emerging from the study help to further clarify the epidemiology of genital warts in young people and may be useful to public health decision-makers.
The present study showed that genital warts occur in men as well as women, and suggests that both genders should be monitored for this disease to ascertain the effects of the free HPV vaccination offered to all girls in the Veneto in their 12th year of life since 2008, and to all boys of the same age since 2015.