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HPV prevention/what are my odds
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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 prevention/what are my odds

Okay, so I had intercourse with this girl who then tells me she has had HPV (this was right at the end of coitus) so after orgasm I immediately washed off my genitals and took a shower.  (Not to mention was very angered) Further discussion revealed that she had had a pap a few weeks ago and a biopsy that got rid of all the areas three weeks ago now, so she didn't feel that my chance of catching it was that high.  Is she right?  I am sort of comforted by the fact that she was JUST treated, but It was unprotected sex (she uses birth control, something that I sort of took to indicate being STD-free)  So my question is, what should I do?  I washed the relevant areas immediately, and I'm told that there is no test that can tell me I have it until its symptoms show up?  The optimist in me wants to believe that the odds are in my favor, but I am not really an expert, as I just learned what this was a few days ago?
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If you have had more than 3-4 sex partners in your lifetime, you probably in fact have been infected with HPV.  In other words, everybody gets it, and if you are a typically sexually active single man, you almost certainly will be reexposed to HPV again and again until you settle into a lifelong, mutually mongamous relationship.  In addition, the HPV types that cause pap smear abnormalities cause no symptoms in men and don't lead to any serious condition (in theory, cancer of the penis--but that is an extremely rare disease that for practical purposes can be disregarded).  For these reasons, your partner did nothing wrong in not telling you about her HPV infection; in the absence of overt genital warts, my routine advice to HPV-infected persons is that they can inform their partners if they wish, but there is no ethical or practical obligation to do so.

It is possible that you reduced your chance of catching a new HPV infection by washing after sex, but no guarantee--but for all the reasons implied above, it doesn't much matter anyway.  It is true that no test is available to know whether or not you are infected with HPV, either from this particular partner or another.

My point is to educate you and other viewers, not to belittle your concerns or to appear insensitive.  Getting HPV is, for practical purposes, a normal aspect of human sexuality; and far too much of it has been made in popular magazines, on the internet, and so on.  Women have a genuine concern, because of the real (but very low) risk of future cancer, but even they shouldn't lose as much sleep over this infection as many people do.

Relax and don't worry about it.  For further information, go to the link at the top of this form (STD summaries and facts) and read the article on HPV.

Good luck--   HHH, MD
4 Comments
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Wow i didnt know the stats on HPV, it's too bad they scare the **** out of everyone so everyone gets worried.....

You're a great person for helping, you should set up a pay pal thing so people can donate to this forum.
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239123_tn?1267651214
Thanks for the thanks.  I'll pass your donation idea along to the forum administration.

Re "too bad they scare the **** out of everyone..."  I can tell you that responsible health authorities are trying to get an accurate story out there.  The problems are twofold:  1) the epidemiologic knowledge has been evolving rapidly, so some well-meaning folks have misinformation; and 2) there is a political spin that is affecting the messages out there.

I don't want to get deeply into politics, and I'm not going to contribute further to a sustained politically-oriented message string.  But there is a vocal movement, to which the current administration is contributing, that is pressing very hard on the factoid that condoms "don't work" to prevent STDs, in particular HPV.  (Since when have the public or public health officials demanded 100% efficacy from safety devices?  We assertively recommend seatbelts even though some people die wearing them.)  A side effect, perhaps intended or perhaps not, is over-hyping HPV itself.  I lay some of the inflated fears about HPV at the feet of those promoting the misleading messages about condom efficacy.

Thanks again for your support of the forum.

Regards--  HHH, MD
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What about the differences of "low risk" and "high risk" types?  I recently had a partner with what may be a "high risk" type, she keeps having a regrowth of warts and so forth.  She had just been treated when we had contact, so much like pinballworker, my odds have been lowered.  But I was reading that there are different strains of the virus?  Are these different versions any more communicable than each other?  Are High Risk viruses more communicable?
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H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D.Blank
University of Washington
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