Epidemiological studies show that human papillomaviruses (HPV) are strongly related to cervical cancer and cervical intraepithelial neoplasias (CIN). Unlike the case for women, there are no consistent data on the natural history of HPV in the male population even though these viruses are prevalent in males. We carried out a prospective study to assess the prevalence of HPV in males as well as the factors that determine such infections in 99 male sexual partners of women with CIN. The genitalia of the males were physically examined and subjected to peniscopy for the collection of scrapings which were subjected to the polymerase chain reaction and restriction fragment length polymorphism to detect HPV. Of the 99 males sampled, 54 (54.5%) were positive for HPV DNA, 24% of whom presented normal peniscopy, 28% presented evident clinical lesions and 48% isolated lesions consistent with subclinical infection. In the HPV-negative group, 53% showed normal peniscopy, 4% presented evident clinical lesions and 42% isolated lesions consistent with subclinical infection. The study detected a statistically significant association (P < 0.02, Pearson chi-square test) between HPV infection and both the mean number of sexual partners which a male had during his life and the mean number of sexual partners in the year prior to testing. Viral types 6 and 11 were most frequently encountered. The study shows that infection with HPV was frequent in male sexual partners of women with CIN.