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HPV DNA transference

Good day,

Thank you for your attention and for providing this resource.

I’m a 30-year-old male virgin whose only exposure was recent outercourse with another male, apparently in his 40s, of dubious status (promiscuous). The transaction went as follows:

Dry-humping with my boxers on for around a minute while the other party (naked) masturbated himself;
I deposited hospital-grade hand sanitizer (70% ethanol with added moisturisers) into his hand and observed as he applied it (no handwash in his shower room (!));

Without warning, he then put his hand into my boxer shorts and pressed a finger near my anus, touching my anal fissure for a few seconds. The fissure was irritated from multiple bowel movements hours before but had not bled. I winced and he quickly moved his finger to my actual anus for a few seconds longer (without penetration) before withdrawing;

Mutual masturbation leading to orgasm in his case but not in mine.

There was no direct genital-to-genital contact/frottage or transfer of sexual fluids (even his orgasm was dry). I understand from these forums that most of this behaviour was not risky, but what perturbs me is studies indicating that HPV DNA concentration is high in the penile shaft (I thought it was mucosal skin only, i.e. the penis head) and that this is impervious to alcohol. The unanticipated, albeit brief, contact with my fissure has left me anxious since it would potentially offer access to any residual HPV DNA on his hands to my anus’s basement membrane, potentially establishing infection.

Can I ask how you would evaluate the risk of sanitized hand-to-genital contact without fluid exchange? I despair that I have potentially allowed for a risk to my health because of poor forethought and communication on my part (not to mention the other party’s poor hygiene).
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207091 tn?1337709493
COMMUNITY LEADER
So a few things -

The penis shaft is a mucus membrane.

You seem to have a high level of anxiety, maybe just around health issues/germs, but if that's true, I hope you consider getting some help for that, because you deserve to find some comfort and peace.

Now, that said, hands don't transmit HPV, and HPV requires direct skin to skin oral to genital, or genital to genital/anal contact. Also, your partner had just used hand sanitizer.

https://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/hpv-genital-warts/news/20190215/hands-dont-spread-hpv-study-finds

Have you gotten the HPV vaccine? Now would be a great time to get it, before you have had any risk for it.

Helpful - 1
12 Comments
Many thanks for your kind response, auntiejessi. It really does help to know that there are wiser people who will weigh in on these issues.

I didn’t know that the penis shaft is mucosal. I thought mucosal tissues were moist and sensitive (throat, nasal passages, eyes etc.). I can see that the head of my penis is mucosal, but my penis shaft is just like regular skin.

You’re right that I’m anxious about this encounter. The reason is that I thought hand sanitizer would kill anything harmful, but there is evidence to the contrary:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140212132944.htm

"Chemical disinfectants in hand sanitizer are commonly used in the general population to prevent the spread of infectious diseases," Meyers said. "For flu or cold viruses they are very effective. But the data shows that they do nothing for preventing the spread of human papillomavirus."

I hear what you’re saying about hands generally not transmitting HPV and I recognise that any such cases are outliers. If it hadn’t been for my open sore/fissure I wouldn’t be worried. My anxieties could have been avoided if I’d just had him wash his hands instead, which ostensibly removes any HPV, but that would have invited recontamination from his towel.

I’ve done so little sexually in no small part because I want to ensure my good health and I only engaged in this encounter because I thought it was entirely safe (it might have been, if he hadn’t stuck his fingers where they weren’t wanted). It’s just an unfortunate sequence of events > partner masturbates (accrues HPV from mucosal surface) > sanitizer fails to kill HPV > partner touches my anal fissure, potentially infecting it.

I have been vaccinated, but I know that there are at least 14 high-risk HPV strains (some say as many as 40) and I’m only covered against 9.
Hand sanitizers may not kill HPV, but they would probably break it down enough to prevent transmission if hands transmitted it.

Listen, you've been vaccinated, hands don't transmit, his hands were exposed to hand sanitizer which may not kill but would probably degrade the virus, plus air and time exposure, they touched clothing, etc. You are way overthinking this.

Towels do not spread HPV.

HPV requires direct, unclothed skin to skin contact - oral to genital, genital to genital, or genital to anal. Herpes and syphilis are transmitted the same way.

Yes, technically, you're correct that the shaft of the penis isn't a mucus membrane - I misstated that. I often group that in when talking about STDs because it's a thinner skin, and you get can herpes and syphilis on that skin, and also shed the herpes virus from that skin.

It IS an unfortunate sequence that happened to you because someone touched you intimately without your consent, and it has left you spiraling. I understand this. However, there is just no risk to this for HPV, or any other STD.

Oh auntiejessie, I’m so glad for your contributions. It’s just refreshing to meet a kind soul who actually cares (your username checks out).

I defer to your judgement and I admit that there’s a lot of this that’s just over my head. Probably that’s brewing my anxiety too. Genital HPV is also known as mucosal HPV; but if the penis shaft isn’t mucosal, how can it harbour high concentrations of genital HPV DNA? (I don’t expect you to answer that one, just highlighting how obscure STIs can be to laypeople.)

Apparently HPV is also an unusually hardy virus which can survive outside the body for days:
https://www.waterpathogens.org/book/papillomavirus
(See ‘Persistence’.)

Having said that I wasn’t worried about contracting HPV from the towel per se. Just that, in the absence of handwash, it was probably gross (hanging off the shower rail, shower had no shampoo or body wash either). In other words, I didn’t see the benefit of him rinsing his hands only to dry them off on a dirty towel and I didn’t take handwash with me because you kind of expect everyone to have a baseline level of hygiene. Suffice to say I didn’t even enjoy the experience (unable to climax). I was dizzy from assessing risks. But these dubious encounters are the rabbit hole you can find yourself falling down if you’re gay in a world where so few are…I never thought I’d be here but there you go. You’re like the light on the other side.
auntiejessi* (apologies, autocorrect)
Did this person live in this place that you were? There was no shampoo or body wash or soap or anything?

One thing about HPV is that most of us will get it at least once in our lifetimes if we are sexually active. You don't yet fall into that category because you are vaccinated and haven't done anything that is a risk. You said you were dizzy from assessing risk, which makes me wonder if you are preventing yourself from enjoying your sexuality, which can be a wonderful thing.

There are many gay people around you, probably. Depending on where you live, they may just not be out, or identifying as gay. Some may be bisexual. Numbers are rising with younger generations who care far less about labels and traditions, as well.

Again - I need to go back to a possible germ phobia. Is it with all germs, or just STDs?

I'm happy you're finding some comfort in my answers. Try not to overthink all of this. Condoms offer significant protection for HPV, for example, and no matter what the skin on the shaft of the penis is, remember that condoms cover it. :)
Your answers and your kindness have helped me, auntiejessi. Thank you.

Yes, it was his flat in a residential building. I was misled because I saw a clear bottle of what I thought was hand sanitizer in the lobby when I entered (looking back I’m not so sure, it was more likely lube). When we moved through to the shower room for the handjobs so as not to make any mess, the only effects there were wet wipes above the toilet and the towel. Not even a toothbrush. There were also two large white pills on the sink but they could have been anything.

I know I must come across as neurotic but I wouldn’t say I fear regular germs. I guess I’m risk-averse more than a germophobe. STDs do scare me, HPV in particular since we have PrEP now for HIV. I understand HPV isn’t really avoidable among the sexually active but it’s the not knowing which gives me chills. We don’t have approved tests for HPV in men and although bad outcomes are rarer for us, the thought that the infection could be lurking year after year all the while getting progressively worse is in a word horrible.

I would much rather date but I have two main problems on that front. The first is what I call the funnel. Only around 5% of people share my orientation and then they also have to be out, single, interesting to me, interested in me, looking for a relationship, monogamous and that’s before other factors (i.e. no drug use, at most a moderate drinker etc.). I wish I had the same organic opportunities for relationships as my straight peers. I’m on the dating apps but they feel so shallow and sterile. I’ve met some people and made a couple of acquaintances through them, but nothing more. Besides, I’m really kidding myself for now because of problem two.

The other issue is my body. My fissure is chronic, which means it’s a no-go zone. I’ve tried toys and the pain was extraordinary. The doctors have given me temporary relief (fissurectomy and Botox), but it’s reopened dozens of times since it happened of natural causes when I was fourteen. I don’t believe it will ever fully heal. I’m on the surgical waiting list again but face a potential sphincterotomy with the risk of permanent incontinence.

I have a number of other anatomical anomalies which have eclipsed my sexual confidence, specifically a mild case of pearly penile papules – now resolved – and a very severe case of Fordyce Spots and shaft hairs which I’m still contending with. (Fordyce Spots aren’t typically associated with hairs but it’s just another of my lamentable idiosyncrasies.) I am making slow and steady headway with improving these, but the demand is celibacy because the downtime is several weeks per treatment, during which I’m swollen and scabby.

That’s how I ended up in a stranger’s flat and now this forum.
That flat sounds weird. It sounds like a place he keeps just for hook ups and he doesn't actually live there or something.

I'm very sorry about your fissure. It sounds painful, emotionally and physically. There are a number of gay men who prefer to skip the anal stuff, though - we see a number of them here. I don't know where you live, or they live, but they can't all live in one place, right? Like they can't all live in the UK, and you live in the US, for example, or they all live in New York City, and you live in San Francisco.

Fordyce Spots are absolutely natural, as are hairs on the shaft. Just because they aren't common doesn't mean you don't see it. People post a lot of pics here for us to look at, and I've seen way more than my share of penis pics, and it's all far more common than you'd think.

It may bother you, and a partner may have questions, but it's not a "lamentable idiosyncrasy". It's all natural and normal. I'm glad you are doing something if it makes you feel better, but I'm sorry it's caused body shame.

Why HPV, though? You are vaccinated, and while that doesn't cover all the strains, it does offer protection for the 9 most common. Why are you focused on that? You say risk-averse, but condoms offer a lot of protection, and HPV rarely causes any long term issues. "Lurking year after year" - most clear it within 2 years.

Is herpes different for you because it doesn't get worse and possibly cause cancer? Is that why you don't fear it the same way? Do you not fear covid? I don't want you to develop fears of these things - just very interested in how these fears/risk averse things work for people.

Hang in there. :)
I’m glad for this dialogue, auntiejessi. I truly am. Thanks again.

I think he was just slovenly. I forgot to mention that the toilet bowl was filthy so he must have been living there.

You’ve hit the nail on the head. I have body shame (and pain). The Fordyce Spots thing is strange in that I've read they're common, yet of all the professionals who've examined me (including a GP, aesthetician and electrolysist/dermatology nurse) only a specialist cosmetic doctor had ever seen them before. He also described my case as “very severe” (it was) which I take to mean among the worst he’s seen. Thankfully with his and the electrolysist's help it's improved a lot over the years. Now I'm working on the hairs.

You’re right, I’m scared of HPV because it’s potentially fatal and I wouldn't know if I'd unwittingly brought it upon myself. I understand it's very rarely dangerous but if cancer is a possibility – even a remote one – then I want to be sure I've done my utmost to avoid it. That's where I fell short with the hand sanitizer when hand wash would have removed all doubt. Your reassurance has helped a lot.

I’m afraid of herpes, albeit a little less, inasmuch as it would damage my already limited dating prospects. Being conscientious I would of course disclose it to any romantic prospects, and I know from personal experience that doesn't always happen!

I don’t fear Covid so much. This encounter happened in mid-November when all restrictions were lifted in Scotland, I was double-jabbed and over-40s without underlying health conditions were being boosted (other party said they’d received their booster). I wore a three-ply mask the whole time too.

There was some risk in meeting a stranger, but I’m a fully-grown man, carry a gel spray with me at all times and I left a note with the address in my room for my flatmates to find just in case. I also used PrEP despite that I was only going to do what I thought to be entirely safe. In other words, I took stock of all risks as best I could and the other STDs, while concerning to me, would have been killed by the hand sanitizer (credit where credit's due).

I don’t know where to go from here. I’ll certainly never repeat this experiment; it wasn’t worth the anxiety. Some clinics offer HPV DNA testing in men, but if I ever find a partner I’d like to be sexual with, that would probably be a waste of time, since such tests don’t detect the virus if it’s incubating. At any rate, mutual monogamy will be my only alternative to celibacy.
Penile cancers are rare. I couldn't find anything specific to Scotland, but I did find some info on the UK:


https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/cancer/cancer-types-in-adults/penile-cancer

"In the UK, around 550 men are diagnosed with cancer of the penis each year. It most commonly affects men over 60 years of age."

"Studies have found that almost 5 out of 10 men (47%) with penile cancer also have an HPV infection.

Age is also a risk factor for cancer of the penis. The condition rarely affects men under 40 years of age, and most commonly occurs in men aged over 60.

Smoking is the most significant lifestyle factor associated with penile cancer. Chemicals found in cigarettes can damage cells in the penis, which increases your risk of getting the condition."


It is rare in developed countries - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6645409/

Anal cancer in Scotland - again, grouped in with the UK -

https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/anal-cancer/incidence

From 2016-2018, there were 1,519 cases of anal cancer, and 136 were in Scotland. (Scroll down that page to see by country, gender, etc. The majority are in women.)

It's interesting that you aren't afraid of covid, which is much deadlier than HPV. If you aren't in the US, I'm sure your covid rates are lower - I think everyone's rates are lower - but I know no one who has or who has died of penile or anal cancer, and know 3 people who've died from covid, and several others who've lost loved ones who did. I was double vaccinated, wore my 3-ply mask and got covid. I don't know if you have Omicron yet, but that stuff is sneaky. I now have my booster, but even people who've been boosted are getting Omicron.

It does seem like your fears follow the path of your body shame, too - like "one more reason someone wouldn't want me". I'm really sorry for that. I'm sorry doctors have added to that.

In any case, I don't think you need HPV testing. I know it would ease your mind, but science says you're fine.

Where to go from here? I'd hope you'd consider counseling. Low self-esteem or body shame is a beast of a thing, and therapy can help.

Herpes mightn't be so bad if I were straight, I'd expect. I know straight people with herpes who seem to have happy dating lives. With my particular issues however, including being gay, things are complicated enough already.
PS I posted my last comment re. herpes before yours came through (just updated the page now and yours appears above; sorry if it confused you as it wasn't meant as a response, just an afterthought).

"one more reason someone wouldn't want me". There's an uncomfortable kernel of truth in that. I will cogitate on it.

Thanks for the wider medical context and for your assessment of my situation. It's important to keep these issues in perspective. I'm sorry to hear of your losses from Covid and I take your point that it's much more deadly than HPV. Personally I'm fortunate enough not to know anyone who's died from either (yet). I only know of people who've gotten quite sick from Covid.

This thread unexpectedly became something of an iceberg for my issues, the full extent of which I've never revealed to anyone before. Yet with your coaxing, here they are writ large for me to ponder. After that anxiety-addled opening it's credit to you that I feel more like myself again and our discussion has been a therapy all of its own. Maybe that's the road I ought to go down after all, but whichever path I take next I'm very glad to have crossed yours. I won't make any further demands on your time, which I understand is given voluntarily (I'd happily donate if I could find the function). I just wanted to say, as one anonymous fellow human in this strange thing that is life, thank you. I'd be overjoyed if I were your nephew. Everyone could use an auntie like you.
We don't take donations, but you can pay it forward. If given the opportunity, educate someone, reduce the stigma on STDs, or be kind to yourself. :)

I won't pretend to know what life is like as a gay man in Scotland. I do know what life is like as a woman with herpes is like in the US, and I do have gay friends with herpes here. I fully understand that being friends with them is not living the life, but it's probably not nearly as bad as you think. Few things are.

"I'd be overjoyed if I were your nephew. Everyone could use an auntie like you." - I'll be sure to remind them how lucky they are. ;) Thank you.

Take good care.
134578 tn?1642048000
Also, when most people get HPV, it clears from the body. The risks of it causing a problem are low.
Helpful - 0
6 Comments
Thanks for weighing in, AnnieBrooke. I know bad outcomes are rare (especially in men). I just wish there was a reliable way of knowing whether we were infected. That way you can have peace of mind while you're in the clear.
Actually, I thought men can get an anal pap smear done. Maybe it depends on your relationship with your doctor.

You say peace of mind is your goal. If you see a therapist, try to dive into what this situation triggered in you overall, not medical fears but deeper-down or more ambiguous issues and beliefs in yourself. You might be letting a deeper anxiety settle on an HPV straw man.

You can get anal paps done, but docs will only do that if someone has had receptive anal sex, usually, or if there are symptoms.
Hi again AnnieBrooke. Thanks for your thoughts; they are appreciated. Anal pap tests are possible but would only detect the HPV if it had already become precancerous (and as auntiejessi says, health services probably wouldn’t do one in my circumstances). Some private clinics offer HPV DNA testing in men and women but it doesn’t catch the virus if it’s incubating and it can come out of incubation at any time.

Can I ask, from my account of what happened, do you suggest therapy because you too see this as a zero-risk exposure, or do you suggest it simply that I might alleviate my anxiety about it? Or both of the foregoing?
I was commenting about therapy because in the community where I write the most, posters write in with obsessive worry about nonexistent risks and near-to-nonexistent risks all the time, and they would do better with therapy than with answers about the physical issue that's supposedly what is bothering them. This is because the medical question is usually transferrence from a deeper down worry that has nothing much to do with the medical question. The mind can think of 100 creative new worries a day to cover a deeper but harder to solve anxiety. Don't do that. A good counselor can help you figure out what is driving this.

On the internet, people can find material to scare themselves and obsess over, but apparently not enough to get perspective on what vanishingly low odds really mean and apply it to themselves.  I don't think you have risk from what you did, but when you ask "do you too see this as a zero-risk exposure?" it feels like the time when a woman wrote and demanded to know "Are you 100% sure? 1000% sure? Would you personally bet your house on it?" and like that, and she wouldn't let up. When things get that nervous, it's time to consider what's beneath the worry.

For peace of mind:  Believe your doctor. See a counselor to sort out underlying but more amorphous worries. Put things that are unimportant into perspective. Keep taking care of yourself.

And in case it helps to know this, understand that there are people who would trade places with you in a heartbeat exactly as you are right this minute, whether you're gay in a place where it's hard to find partners, have physical ailments, and have tiny or no risk of exposure to a virus that (if you get it) is some huge percentage likely to go away, and if it doesn't, has some tiny risk of producing cancer.  I'm not saying life is perfect, I'm saying some people would be happy to be you even as everything is right now. So yeah, talk to a counselor, and dig into underlying worries. It might be more of a relief than you expect.
Hello again AnnieBrooke.

Your explanation around your recommendation of therapy is gratefully received.

I’m sorry if my question came across as besetting. Looking back I think I did a poor job of articulating it. I wasn’t pressing for a definitive answer on the risk of this event (I realize now that’s probably not possible, despite conforming to “safe sex” practices). What I was trying to get at was, when you said “HPV straw man”, whether you meant I was overreacting to the non-existent/negligible risks of this particular event, or to HPV in general. From your response I infer that you meant both, but feel free to correct me on that.

I thought my anxieties were driven just by a basic need for self-preservation. It’s ostensibly our most primal instinct after all. That said I’ll explore your suggestion that there may be sonething else going on. On the same note, I do value my life despite its shortcomings. You’re right, nobody’s life is perfect. What I meant was, I didn’t end up here because it’s what I truly wanted to be doing. The limitations I do have, however, account in no small part for how I did end up here. It was just a mixture of curiosity and feeling like I didn’t have a better alternative for the time being. I would much rather be in a committed relationship and I’ll hold out for that going forward.

If I didn’t care for my wellbeing or appreciate the place I’ve been given in life then I wouldn’t have been so worried about this misstep. Yours and auntiejessi’s advice has given me no small measure of relief and it’s clear to me that you’re both in the right line of volunteering. Hats off to you.
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