STDs Expert Forum
HPV Transmission
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The STD Forum is intended only for questions and support pertaining to sexually transmitted diseases other than HIV/AIDS, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, human papillomavirus, genital warts, trichomonas, other vaginal infections, nongonoccal urethritis (NGU), cervicitis, molluscum contagiosum, chancroid, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

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HPV Transmission

Dear Dr.

I'm male/35. In 2006, my girlfriend was diagnosed with high-risk HPV. We had sex so many times, even though I show no visible symptoms, I must be carrying HPV.

I haven't been sexually active since her diagnosis. I'd rather not have sex again than give someone this potentially dangerous (cancer) virus. I can live without sex, but there is so much conflicting information on the web about non-sexual transfer of genital HPV. The idea of infecting people around me through non-sexual contact (everyday contact at home,workplace,beach etc.) makes me very nervous and anxious.

1.Would washing hands with regular liquid soap for a couple of times after touching the genitals suffice to rid the hands of viable HPV? I wash my hands twice after I use the bathroom. I still worry about HPV because after using the toilet, I have to touch my shirt and pants before I can wash my hands, thus possibly contaminating my pants,belt and shirt. Then I end up trying not to touch those parts of my shirt,pants or belt again to make sure I dont get the virus back onto my hands.

2.Showering takes a lot of time because I make sure I wash my hands everytime I touch my genitals, before touching the rest of my body, to avoid contaminating other parts of my body. I feel like even my legs/feet may become contaminated and spread the virus because in the shower the soapy water from my genitals runs down my legs onto my feet. Am I then contaminating seats I sit in while wearing shorts? Is HPV carried on my legs and feet to every place I go? Should I worry about things getting contaminated with HPV if I drop them on the floor because I contaminate the carpet with my feet?

3.In a situation like camping where there is no running water & soap available, how can I rid my hands of HPV after touching my genitals? Would a waterless hand sanitizer be effective against a non-enveloped virus like HPV? If so, what kind should I use?

4.How do I make sure I dont spread HPV non-sexually?

Thanks a lot :)
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300980_tn?1194933000
Welcome to our Forum.  You questions suggest that you have been misinformed about HPV infections and their course.  While you MAY have had HPV through exposure to your GF 4 years ago, at this time virtually all HPV infections would have resolved within 18-24 months of exposure, even with continued exposure.  Thus, your assumption that you have HPV is likely erroneous.  Further, it is important to point out that most HPV infections do not progress to cancer. In fact it is likely that the true figure is less than 1% of such infections progress and should a partner get HPV and should it persist to cause pre-cancerous lesions, PAP smears are highly effective and detecting infections and preventing spread.  Current estimates are that about 85% of sexually active adults will have HPV at some point.  Abstinence is just not needed although I would suggest that you encourage future partners to get the HPV vaccine, and you might consider it yourself.  It is highly effective and while you are not in the age range for whom it is recommended, the reason it is not recommended for you is not because it wouldn’t be expected to work but because as a group, persons your age are at lower risk for infection and progression than younger persons.

In answer to your questions:

1, 2, and 3.  HPV infections tend to occur on target surfaces., thus you really are not at risk for either getting infected on your hands or other body parts, nor for transmitting it to others on your hands. the hygiene measures you are pursuing are overkill.

4.  See above.  

The topic of HPV and genital warts is a complex one.  I will try to provide some facts.  For additional information on this most common of STDs, I would suggest search for other HPV- and wart-related Q&A on this site, as well seeking addition information on sites such as the American Social health Association web-site (disclosure, Dr. Handsfield and I are both on the Board of ASHA).. EWH
5 Comments
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Avatar_m_tn
Dear Dr. Hook,

Thank you for your response. I understand that some of my concerns about non-sexual HPV transmission sound like overkill to you.  Honestly, I wouldn't worry about it as much if the worst case scenario was genital warts. Yes, they are undesirable and an inconvenience but after all, it is not the end of the world to have warts. The scary word for me here is cancer, which can be the end of the world for a person. I do know that the majority of HPV infections do not lead to cancer and I am not worried about the possibility of getting cancer from HPV myself. I know that for males it is even more unlikely and I can't spend my days worrying about something that unlikely.  I will worry about it if it happens.  

Infecting someone else is a totally different story though. I can not live if someone gets cancer (or even has to go through painful procedures like biopsies, LEEP, chemo, radiation etc.) because of me. Regardless of how remote or improbable the scenario is, it is so scary. So I feel like I should do whatever I can to eliminate that risk.

Yes, I can think of a bunch of scenarios, ranging from sharing a washing machine with roommates to trying on jeans at a store (with underwear on, of course) and not buying them, that in my mind might pose a transmission risk. But I also agree that it may not be the best idea to ask about each and every one of them.

If you could just tell me what I should do (or not do) to eliminate this risk, in other words, what poses a real non-sexual transmission risk and how to avoid it, that would be the fully satisfying answer to my question and worries.

Thank you very much and best wishes.
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300980_tn?1194933000
Your reasoning is suspect.  If your extended these concerns to the rest of your life you should never drive a car either.

There are no formal recommendations for prevention of non-sexual transmission of HPV because there is no reason for them.   It occurs so very rarely to be a medical curiosity which occurs far too readily for study.

In all seriousness, I urge you to discuss your concerns with a counselor or mental health professional.  They have no basis and appear to be negatively impacting your life.  EWH
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Avatar_m_tn

So..

What would Dr. Hook do, if he were in my situation, in terms of non-sexual transmission prevention?  Nothing?

If the tiniest doubt remains in my mind after your answer to this, I promise I am taking it to a counselor.

Thanks again for your expert opinion, valuable advice and for having the patience of a saint. I promise no further questions. Period. :)

Best wishes.

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300980_tn?1194933000
I would have no concerns whatsoever and would not let the distant history of HPV negatively influence my relationships with others.  As I said, I think you are over reacting.  EWH
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This Forum's Experts
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H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D.Blank
University of Washington
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Edward W Hook, MDBlank
University of Alabama at Birmingham
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