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HPV questions

ali Asks:

If my body will clear the virus off in time, will all types of HPV go away, or are certain types more persistent than others?

Some types of HPV tend to be more persistent than others.  In particular, some of the cancer-causing types are less likely to be cleared naturally.  That is why you still need to get regular screening as recommended by your provider.  This is also one of the reasons why the vaccines are recommended, to prevent at least 2 of the types that tend to stick around, HPV types 16 and 18.

ali Asks:

I've been diagnosed with several types of hpv including one with risk for cancer. Does having more types of hpv at once increase my chances to get abnormal cells?

For most women HPV testing is done with a non-specific probe that will be ‘positive’ if she has been infected with one or with many HPV types. So most women having an HPV test will not know which type of HPV they have. There are no currently available HPV typing tests that indicate the type of HPV you may have outside of research protocols, with the exception of a more specific probe for HPV 16 and HPV 18.   In prospective studies using research-grade HPV typing tests, it has been shown that if infected, the vast majority of women are infected with only one HPV type.   It is currently unclear if cell transformation in women with more than one HPV type increases the chances of HPV and CIN persistence. 

brenda Asks:

Brenda asks,

If i still have sex with my boyfriend before or after i get treated for the coposcopy will i make things worse by having sex with him without condoms?? or will it make no difference since he has my hpv anyways by now?

Chances are that your partner has the same HPV types that you have if you're in a long term relationship and having sex only with each other. Most experts think that the HPV virus doesn't 'ping-pong' back and forth between the same partners, so you shouldn't make it worse by having sex after the colposcopy.  But please talk to your doctor about these questions and how you can reduce your risk of having the HPV infection return.  One important step you can take is to not smoke. Smoking increases the risk of a high risk HPV infection growing into cancer. So if you don't now smoke, don't start. And if you do smoke, quit! 

Disappointed Asks:

You said HPV doesnt ping pong or go back and forth between partners. Does it increase the virus load though? I've had complete Cervarix shots while I was sexually active. Can I still get vaccinated with Gardasil to be protected against other types of HPV?

The answer to your first question is that viral load is not routinely tested for in clinical settings. But in research settings, it has been shown that viral load can fluctuate.

Tina Asks:

I had the LEEP procedure in Feb '09 & tested HPV negative in Jan '10. In Dec '09, my husband discovered he has genital warts. Is it possible to catch different strains of HPV from each other? or if we have the same HPV strain, can we re-infect each other?

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.

josie Asks:

i was told i had HPV when i was 19, had cancerous cells, it was removed and was doing fine. a couple years later i had no signs of HPV at all. My Doc said that my immune system could fight it off. i am 25 now, and have had no symptoms since. does that mean i do not have HP any longer?

HPV can lay dormant in your body for a long time. We really do not know how long it can be there without showing any symptoms. So it's not possible to tell whether your HPV infection is no totally gone or if it was just fought and surpressed by your immune system. The best protection you can provide yourself is to follow steps to keep yourself healthy:  eat well, exercise, don't smoke and limit your sexual partners.  Be well.

donna Asks:

Ive been married for 16 years and recently found out that I have a high risk hpv. Can the virus lay dormant for all these years or did my husband fool around on me???

HPV can lay dormant in your body once you have it for a very long time. Researchers are looking at this question but do not yet fully understand how long it can hang around in your body.  Your high risk HPV could have been laying dormant for all the time you've been married. There is no way to know. So don't go jumping to conclusions and blame your husband.  Make sure that you get regular check ups with your doctor and follow her advice. 

Iris Asks:

My boyfriend has HPV, I think he exposed me to it, yet i dont have it,and have been talking about having sex again. I am just afraid of getting the actual disease this time. Even though we have decided to use condoms,is there something he can take to get rid of it, or how do i avoid not getting it

HPV is a virus that we don't yet have a cure for. So there is no medicine to take to get rid of it once you have it.  I'm glad you're thinking about how to protect yourself and reduce your risk of getting HPV. You can get vaccinated to protect you from getting HPV if you are a female between the ages of 9 and 26. Condoms are another good method of protection, although they do not cover every area that may potentially be exposed to this virus.  Other ways to limit your risk of getting HPV are to limit the number of sexual partners you have, eat well and exercise and don't smoke. HPV is a virus that can cause a lot of problems. Once you have it, it can stay in your body a long time. Please do everything you can to protect yourself.  

bob Asks:

I have just learned that my teenage daughter has HPV, the high risk kind. Should I worry that my other daughter could get the virus by using the same soap or the same towel? Is it possible to be transmitted this way?

No need to worry.  HPV is transmitted by skin to skin contact. Sex is the most common skin to skin contact when this occurs. It isn’t spread through toilet seats or towels; eating out of the same bowl of cereal or kissing. So your other daughter is not in danger of contracting the HPV virus from her sister.


Christine Snider Asks:


I have been diagnosed with low level HPV. I am currently trying to boost my immune system to get cured. However, will having sex aggravate this condition. I do not think I have any warts or lesions.


Sex will not aggravate your condition. But if you do have sex, you can reduce your chance of getting another strain of the HPV virus by having sex with only one partner, who also only has sex with you. If you are not in such a monogamous relationship, you can reduce your risk by limiting the number of partners you have and choosing only partners who have a limited number of partners.

You can also protect against getting infected with another HPV strain by using a condom during sex. This will give you some protection against HPV, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases that may increase your risk of cervical cancer. In addition to vaccination and regular screening, consistent condom use has been shown to reduce the risk of cervical, vaginal, and vulvar HPV infection.

Another important way to fight off your HPV infection is not to smoke. If you do smoke, try to quit. And if you don’t smoke, don’t think about starting.

doug Asks:

How long after having sex will the virus show up. If I have been having sex with someone for 6 months is it possible that I gave it to her?

The answer to your question is not known.  It is not known what the ‘transmission efficacy’ of HPV is.  That is, we do not know the rate by which people actually get an infection for each exposure to the virus.  This is in contract to other sexually transmitted microbes, where an exposure often results in infection.  There is another unknown about HPV infections to complicate matters. If an HPV shows up at a later time, it is not clear whether this HPV infection is new or a reactivation of an old HPV infection. We have a lot yet to learn about HPV.  To reduce your and your partner’s risk of getting HPV, see the assessing your risk section of our web site,

Sandy Asks:

I have just gotten the loop procedure done to remove precancerous cells caused by HPV. Will I ever be able to have sex with my boyfriend again or will there always be the risk of contracting HPV again from him?

Yes, you will be able to have sex again.  However, there is still a lot we do not know about HPV. Most experts think that the HPV virus doesn't 'ping-pong' back and forth between the same partners. The LEEP or Cone procedures do not get rid of your HPV infection, only the abnormal cells resulting from persistent HPV infection.  Condoms do offer some protection against HPV transmission, as well as other sexually transmitted infections. But HPV can be spread through genital contact and that contact can occur outside of the area covered by a condom. So condoms don't offer complete protection against HPV, but they might offer you some peace of mind. 


It is thought, though, that after a LEEP or a Cone procedure, your body will mount an effective immune response to assist in clearing the virus. That is why these procedures are so effective, and cervical abnormalities rarely come back after such procedures in women with working immune systems. But this does not happen in all women and it is impossible, at this time, to predict who will have a persistent HPV infection which may lead to a recurrence of abnormal cells. That is why you need to talk about your concerns with your provider and continue to take good care of yourself and get regular checkups and Pap tests, especially if you have had a procedure for abnormal cervical cells.

lisa Asks:

I have been married for 20 years and just gave birth to my fifth child 6 weeks ago. I went for my Pap and was called back and told I have HPV and pre-cancerous cells. I have had a normal Pap for years. Can it be dormant for that long?

You ask a question that is on the mind of a lot of women upon hearing that they have unexpected results from their Pap test.  In most women infected with HPV, the cells in the cervix return to normal after the body's immune system has eliminated the HPV infection of forced it into latency without the woman ever having any signs or symptoms of the HPV.  However, some HPV infections do not fo away and may remian present in the cervical cells for year, without causing any abnormalities most of the time. Most HPV infections clear up within 2 years, some sooner, some longer. Long-standing infection can lead to changes in the cells that can progress to cancer if not treated. If is these cell changes taht a Pap test can detect. Make sure that you follow up with your doctor to get the treatment recommended so taht your pre-cancer cells don't turn into cancer.  Your actions can prevent cervical cancer.

Daize Asks:

Is it possible to have HPV, have it clear up then become active again? I have had multiple procedures done for everything from mild dysplasia to CIN 111 to VAIN. I had normal paps for 10 years in between the first abnormal pap (that was before HPV was known about)

The answer to your question is 'yes' it is possible for HPV to become active again.  But it doesn't happen in every case.  HPV has a tendency to lay dormant for years.  It can then reoccur. In some women, it may reoccur many times and cause the changes you have described such as CIN or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia and VAIN or vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia.  In other women, it may not reoccur.  If you think you are having problems, please contact your doctor and ask about these concerns.

daniella Asks:

When I got with my partner 8 years ago he gave me HPV.  I went to the doctor and she gave me medicine to make the warts go away. It has been 8 years and I haven't had any warts come back. So does that mean I don't have the virus anymore?

While most HPV becomes clinically not detectable after some time, this does not necessarily mean it has gone away.  You may have cleared the virus or it may still be in your body in non-detectable levels. The good news is that the likelihood of its returning, once it is gone, is small.  Most of us have HPV but never know it.  It is very common.

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