STDs Expert Forum
Sex after HPV
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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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Sex after HPV

My girlfriend just got diagnosed with HPV. She has not meant witht the doctor yet so we don't know if she is high or low risk. We have been seeing each other for a year now.  We are concerned now about having sex now as one person might reinfect the other person.  Also, we prefer not to use condoms. I understand it takes a couple of years of being free of symptoms before your considered "clear" or safe to yourself and others.  We don't want this to ruin our relationship and cause anxiety about having sex now.  There is no accurate test for men and I have no warts I can see. Is there any testing I can do worthwhile at this point? And, it seems to me we likely both now have the same hpv virus or virus' as we have been having unprotected sex for sometime now. Can you get hpv from oral sex? If so, does it make any more difference than gential (genital) sex at this point for us seeing how I am likely infected too. In fact, we can't know now who infected who first. Must she wait to be "cleared" by her doctor before we can have sex again? And, how can we know if after "clearing" her or I, (with me I don't know how you know that) that we won't reinfect each other.  

Bottom line. We want this relationship to work, be long term and and for life. How do we proceed now in our sexual life with each other?  I appreciate any help as after reading everything on the internet I am getting conflicted information.  Thank you in advance.
Tags: HPV
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You ask a difficult question and one which can cetainly become even more confusing when the topic is searched on the internet.  The topic of HPV and genital warts is complex.  I will try to provide some facts to help you and your GF consider next steps.  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 reliable sites such as the American Social health Association web-site (disclosure, Dr. Handsfield and I are both on the Board of ASHA). or the CDC.

Your sex partner has been told she has HPV and this concerns you.  Please don't think I'm trying to minimize your concerns but it should not worry you.  For better or worse, at present HPV is a "fact of life" and most people have it or will have it at some point in the future.   As you point out, it is very likely that you are both infected.   Despite this fact, only a tiny minority of persons with HPV get the important biological consequences of infection (primarily women and primarily cancer and pre-cancerous lesions) and in most people the infection is self-limited.  HPV is the most commonly acquired STD.  Over 85% of sexually active women will have HPV infection at some time in their lives.  The figure for men is less well studied but similar.   In some HPV will cause genital warts, in others it will not cause warts but may lead to changes in PAP smears.  In nearly everyone who gets HPV, warts or otherwise, the infections will resolve by themselves without therapy in 8-24 months.  In a very small minority of women, HPV infection can persist and lead to the pre-cancerous lesions that PAP smears detect and which can then be treated.  For men there is far less risk of any sort.  

In a situation such as yours, you can just continue your relationship as you have- the path that most people choose to take, or try to reduce chances for infection/re-infection by using condoms regularly.   Not a lot of other options.  As far as oral sex is concerned, HPV infections do occur in the mouth although less commonly than at the genital sites and when they do, they very rarely lead to important consequences.  

There are no recommended tests for HPV in men.

Finally, a suggestion if your GF has not already pursued it.  She should seek the HPV vaccine.  While the vaccine is NOT therapeutic, it will help to prevent re-infection  with new HOV types.

Hope this is some help.  EWH

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H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D.Blank
University of Washington
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Edward W Hook, MDBlank
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