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HPV Transmission

I've always been very careful about STD's, but I was recently in a relationship with a girl who had HPV. She originally tested positive and it cleared up but then her doctor called her and said there was a mix up at the lab and she was still abnormal. She never had warts, Dr. said it was non-wart type. We both gave oral a lot and also rubbed genitals together without protection. We never had intercourse. I am worried that now I might be a carrier but I'll never know. I'm a bit of a hypochondriac. I have several questions and I'm starting to lose it. I'm angry because I thought I made the right decisions and her doctor screwed up the paperwork.

1. If she didn't have warts, how likely is it I acquired HPV through shedding. Is it equally common to warts in terms of ease of transmission? 2. Can I get warts even if hers was non-wart kind? I have white nodule on testicles but it might just be a pimple. Had nodules like that before. 3. Is there test for HPV in men not approved but shows some diagnostic success? 4. If I have HPV is there a certain amount of time when I can assume I no longer have the infection or I never had it? 5. If I'm a carrier now, will I be a carrier for the rest of my life? 6. How do I explain to women I'm interested in without scaring them away? 7. What are most accurate stats about this STI? 8. I read on CDC website there is currently no known advantage to informing people that you have had or do have HPV because most people have it already or have had it. I feel obligated to tell potential partners now because it's recent but is there a time frame in which I can eventually stop telling because it has probably cleared up? 9. Is this a death sentence on my dating life. I've only had sex with 6 people. Am I now sexually handicapped? It certainly feels that way. 10. Is there anything at all I can do about this? Please help me deal with this. I'm having trouble sleeping, not dating at all, feel like I have the plague and I'm really freaking out.
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239123 tn?1267651214
Welcome to the forum, and thanks for this question, which summarizes frequent concerns of many persons with HPV or exposed to it.  It offers me an opportunity for a blog-like reply about genital HPV infections in general -- perhaps helpful to other users.  I apologize for the length, but hope you find it useful.

First, some basic facts about genital HPV.  Almost everybody is infected at one time or another, often several times.  Except for virgins and those rare partnerships in which neither person ever has (or has had) other partners, HPV is unavoidable, no matter how "careful about STDs" someone may be.  At least 50% of people become infected by the time they have had 3 sex partners; with 6 lifetime partners, almost certainly you have already had HPV, and may still have one or more infections, regardless of the partnership you describe here.  Happily, most infections remain asymptomatic, go away, and never cause recognizable disease.  Highly effective vaccines are available to prevent infection with some of the more serious and inconvenient types of HPV, and you might want to consider that option.  But otherwise, there is little point in being worried about genital HPV or working hard to prevent it.

To your questions:

1) Since you didn't have intercourse, your risk probably is low; however, HPV sometimes can be transmitted by genital apposition without penetration, so there might have been some chance you caught her infection.  Whether or not she had overt warts makes no difference.

2) Warts sometimes may be caused by the "high risk" (non-wart causing) HPV types, but rarely.  You are unlikely to develop warts.

3) HPV testing of men has been used in research, but no approved tests are commercially available.  You can find online sources that offer lab testing, but I don't recommend it.  The results cannot be considered reliable, whether positive or negative; and a positive result often just heighens anxiety, with nothing to do about it anyway.

4,5) HPV DNA may persist for life in infected tissues.  But within several months, occasionally as long as 2 years, most infections clear up to a point that no disease ever occurs and the virus cannot be transmitted to partners -- so in effect, the infection is cured by the immune system.  Some such latent infections can reactivate in the future, but not commonly.

6,8) Partners of people with known HIV, but who don't have a proved infection of their own, are under no obligation to inform their future partners.  You are no more likely to have genital HPV than anybody else is; and your partner(s) are no more likely to catch HPV from you as from any other partner.  In other words, I agree exactly with the CDC advice and disagree with your sense of obligation.  In my view, you should say nothing to future partners.  Here is a thread that discusses this aspect in more detail:  http://www.medhelp.org/posts/STDs/hpv-QA/show/742564

7) At least 80% of sexually active persons acquire genital HPV at least once (probably an underestimate, perhaps 90% or more); at any point in time, 20-50% of sexually active persons in their 20s have detectable HPV infection; and probably around 10-15% of all persons develop genital warts by age 30.

9) Far from being a "death sentence" on your dating life, your experience with this partner should have no effect on it.

10) The best I can suggest is that you try to understand the facts.  Accept what I have just said as true and reassuring, and also do some additional research.  I'm not suggesting a completely cavalier attitude about genital HPV; warts are inconvenient and unplasant, and some HPV infections are serious.  However, since bad outcomes are uncommon and not much can be done about it anyway (other than vaccination), there is no point in worrying about it.  Genital HPV infections should be viewed as a normal and expected part of human sexuality.

Here is another perspective.  Much of the time your skin and other body sites carry staph, strep, certain strains of E. coli, and innumerable other bacteria that sometimes cause serious harm and even death.  These outcomes, including death, are far more likely than the chance you'll have a serious HPV infection.  But I'll bet these facts don't consume your emotional energy.  It's all a part of life, and so is genital HPV.

I hope this helps settle your inordinate fears.  However, I am concerned at how serious an impact this is having on your life.  If that continues even after you educate yourself about HPV, counseling may be in order.  I suggest it out of compassion, not criticism.

My final comment and advice goes back to your recent partner.  I hope you were kind and sensitive to her feelings when she told you of her HPV infection.  She did nothing wrong (and neither did her doctor's office, in my opinion), and it would be a shame if you left her with a sense of contagion or blame, or if you terminated a promising relationship for such trivial reasons.  If that happened, you owe her an apology and perhaps dinner and flowers.

Regards--  HHH, MD
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239123 tn?1267651214
University of Washington
Seattle, WA