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HPV questions

Laura Asks:

Since my high risk (pre-cancerous) HPV has cleared up, can I pass it on to my new boyfriend? We have not had sex yet, I want to know the facts before I tell him and do anything with him.

You are asking a question that is on the minds of a lot of women. I applaud you for thinking about your health and that of your partner. Talking with your partner about your HPV infection is an important step. You both need to be involved in the decision about how your relationship will proceed.  Some facts to consider when you are talking with your partner are: transmission can occur outside intercourse and condoms can help minimize transmission (but not completely), most HPV infections will clear up on their own and the experts now think that it isn’t  transmitted when the  virus is dormant, and maintain your regular check-ups with your healthcare provider so that you’ll be aware of any changes in your HPV status.

Linda Asks:

I am married. My husband and I both have HPV. I have the HPV CIN 2 Moderate Severe type. Is it safe for us to still have sex with a condom on? What do married couples do about sex when they have this? Can I get re-infected or will the virus just die out, being that we both are monogamous. Thanks.

Chances are that you and your husband have the same HPV types. There's a lot we don't know about HPV, but most experts think that the same type of HPV virus doesn't 'ping-pong' back and forth between the same partners. In other words, you are not likely to reinfect each other with the same HPV type.   If the HPV type that you have clears on its own and becomes dormant,  it is unlikely that you will pass on the virus while it’s dormant. Condom usage can reduce your risk of HPV transmission. Please also raise these questions with your healthcare provider. He or she is in the best position to give you personal medical advice.

Sally Asks:

I have learned I have HPV after going to the doctor due to an outbreak, which turned out to be genital warts. Do I have to treat the warts or will they go away over time? Do the warts cause my infection to spread further? Please help.

Certain HPV types can cause warts, others can cause precancerous changes elsewhere in the genital tract. The type that causes warts won’t cause cervical cancer.  Many outbreaks of genital warts are self-limiting and will go away without treatment.  When the warts persist, they often need treatment. Please talk to your healthcare provider about the best treatment for you. 

Katelyn Asks:

I got diagnosed with low grade hpv with pre cancerous cells. I got the leep 6 months ago and it came back. Now I am a smoker but I'm only 17 and take a multivitamin. Shouldn't my being so young still kick the hpv?

A female who smokes has a higher chance of getting cervical cancer. Research has shown that the cervix is affected by the nicotine in cigarettes in much the same way as the lungs.  It is also known that cigarettes can impair the immune system’s ability to fight the HPV infection.  So if you have HPV, you should definitely think about quitting. It will help you prevent that HPV infection from developing to the stage of cancer. It would be a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about your questions, as well. He/she is in the best position to advise you. Also ask about getting vaccinated.

ashley Asks:

If i have HPV but don't have warts and neither does my boyfriend. will I for sure get them? Or do only some people?

There are over 100 different types of HPV viruses.  Some cause warts, some can cause cervical cancer if not treated. But the same type does not cause both warts and cervical cancer.  If neither you nor your boyfriend have genital warts now and you do not have sex with anyone else, you are not likely to get that type of HPV. 

Allyson Asks:

How quickly can you develop HPV if sexually active with someone who has it? If you were to go to the gynecologist and get an abnormal pap smear is it possible for it to show up in a few months? Or would it take a few years?

Thanks for your time!

It can take as little as a month or two for HPV to show up after exposure. Or it can take longer. It is also possible for a newly detected infection to be a reactivation of an old HPV infection. Generally, HPV infections grow slowly. The important thing to do when you know you’ve been exposed to HPV is to keep a schedule of regular check-ups with your healthcare provider. That way you can stay on top of any infection and not let it become cancerous. 

unknown Asks:

I have just been diagnosed with HPV. I'm also a lesbian. I have been with my girlfriend for 8 months. Is it possible that she also has HPV, although her pap was normal? Should I stop having sex with her?

HPV infection can spread through a number of means other than penetrative intercourse.  Skin to skin contact can transmit HPV.  So, if you and your partner have been intimate, the likelihood is you both have been exposed to HPV.  Remember, most HPV infections clear up on their own and don’t go on to cause cancer. Your best protection is through getting annual check-ups and  regular Pap tests to make sure you do not have any cervical abnormalities. It is also important to maintain healthy habits: eat well, get exercise and don’t smoke.

Terri Asks:

My boyfriend told me he was HPV positive from a previous partner. Told me before we did anything. I did Gardisil and he got his warts removed. We want to be more intimate, but I'm still nervous about becoming infected. Are there tips for safe sex practices other than condoms people have used?

Condoms are the best way to minimize risk from HPV- however, they are not 100 percent effective.  Smoking is another risk factor. So if you or he smoke, it would be a really good idea to quit!  You are to be congratulated for taking such good care of your health.

Annie Asks:

I was diagnosed with HPV 8 yrs ago.  The infection cleared up after 6 months. My paps have been normal ever since but recently I had an abnormal pap test again. Does this mean that I have been exposed to a new strain (he is my only partner)?

You ask a question that is on a lot of women’s minds.  Prospective studies have shown that most HPV infections in women who have had prior HPV infections are a reactivation of prior infections. So it is likely that your abnormal Pap test is due to a recurrence of your previous HPV and not a new strain.  It sounds like you have been carefully tracking your HPV status with regular visits to your provider.  That’s terrific. It’s the best way to make sure the infection doesn’t progress to a cancer. Good luck to you.

misty Asks:

Is there any way of knowing how long I've had HPV?

Once you get infected with HPV, the virus likely stays in your body either as an active infection or lays dormant and undetectable after the infection is cleared by your immune system. The HPV does not go away and may remain present in the cervical cells for years. Because it can last so long in your body before any cell changes occur, it is difficult to know who transmitted the HPV to you or how long you’ve had it. So the answer to your question, is ‘no.’

Michelle Asks:

I was recently told I had HPV. Is it safe to still have sex? Ive been with my boyfriend for a couple of months and have not been using condoms. Should we start now? And also, should I think about getting the vaccine.

Chances are that your partner has the same HPV types that you have if you're in a long term, monogamous relationship. There's a lot we don't know about HPV, but most experts think that the same type of HPV virus doesn't 'ping-pong' back and forth between the same partners- it is likely present in both partners and can recur.   Condom usage can reduce your risk of HPV transmission. Please also raise these questions with your healthcare provider. He or she is in the best position to give you personal medical advice including whether or not you should get the vaccine.

Sharon Asks:

Once the HPV is dormant in the body is there a high chance of passing on the virus to others?

If HPV is clinically not detectable (dormant), it is unlikely that you will pass it on to others.

Confused Asks:

I was just told I have low grade HPV with precancerous cells. I have been with my husband for 11 years and I have gotten annual paps since then. Why is it showing up now??

HPV can lay dormant in your body for a very long time. We don’t fully understand the dormancy of HPV, but researchers now think that it is likely that once you have the HPV virus that it never goes away but is either active or lays dormant in your body. Your high risk HPV could have been lying dormant for all the time you've been married. There is no way to know. So don't blame your husband.  The reason it is showing up now is also unknown, but it is likely that your immune system for some reason didn’t fight it off. One of the biggest contributors to HPV infection is smoking. So if you smoke, do think about quitting.

April Asks:

Can the HPV DNA test detect dormant HPV? One year I was negative and the next year I was positive. Thanks

The change in your HPV diagnosis is likely due to one of two reasons.  Either you have a new HPV type, or there has been a reactivation of an HPV type that you had previously.  Non-specific HPV tests (the kind of HPV test you most likely had) cannot determine which HPV type you have; nor can your provider determine this.

linda Asks:

Is possible to get HPV from oral sex?

The answer to your question is currently unknown. While researchers are gathering new information about HPV every year, the question of whether or not oral sex transmits HPV is currently not very well-understood.

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