Questions from Readers: Men and HPV

Tom asks:  
My girlfriend was diagnosed with high-risk HPV over a year ago. Monogamous relationship, unprotected intercourse throughout this time. Is me smoking cigarettes affecting her ability to lose or dormant the virus?

Second- hand smoke is also  harmful for your girlfriend.  And it is harmful to you.  See what you can do to quit or at least not smoke around her.

Mark asks:  
My gf tells me I gave her HPV. Regardless if I gave it to her or she gave it to me should I get tested?  If I’m positive should I get treatment or will it go away on its own?  What do they do when they test me? Please get back to me as soon as you can. Thank you.

HPV is a virus that is spread very easily.  It is estimated that 70-80% of adults will have it at some time in their lives. So you just can’t know whether you gave it to your gf or she gave it to you. The HPV test is not currently recommended for men for a number of reasons.  Knowledge of the HPV status does not subject a male to different screening or exams, like it does in women.  If a man has come in close sexual contact with a woman who has HPV, it can be assumed that he has been exposed.  Also, male sampling for HPV is more difficult. Currently it is mainly done in research trials.

Regis asks:  
I’m a man who recently had sex with a woman with a “high risk” type of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer. Her PAP and other tests came back normal earlier in the month and the virus is dormant. Is HPV likely to be spread if it is dormant and a condom is worn (but skin to skin contact was made)?

Yours is a question that a lot of people are asking.  Some facts for you and your partner to consider: most HPV infections will clear up on their own; the experts believe that HPV is likely not transmitted when the virus is dormant; the Pap test does not test for HPV infection.  Condoms have been shown to lessen the spread of HPV, but not entirely as there is likely still exposed skin.  So use the condoms and encourage your partner to keep up with her regular appointments with her doctor.

Roy asks:  
Can HPV still be contracted even when you always use condoms? I understand it is skin to skin contact but can it spread in just one contact with an infected person?

Yes- HPV is spread by direct contact.  However, not everyone who is exposed to HPV will become infected.  There are a number of other factors that need to happen for someone to be infected.  Plus, your body’s natural immunity can fight most HPV infections. So, the answer to your question is “it’s possible.”  If you are sexually active, your best protection against acquiring HPV is to use condoms, have sex only with one partner who has sex only with you, stay healthy and don’t smoke.

Sally asks:  
I found out that I have HPV through a DNA test. I’m 95% sure that he gave it to me. I realize that I could have had the virus for quite some time but that it could be in remission. If the virus is in remission can it still be passed on? If so, what are the chances of me passing it to him?

Chances are pretty good that you can transmit the virus even when it’s in remission. While HPV disease in men is uncommon- particularly disease related to high risk HPV types, you might still want to think about using condoms. They can reduce your risk of HPV transmission.

Brett asks:  
I have gotten out of a relationship of 4 months. My partner had cervical cancer about 1 1/2 years ago. What are the chances of passing HPV to my next partner?

The likelihood is high that you are infected with a high risk HPV type which means that you may pass it on to your next partner.  Unfortunately, the risk of your transmitting this HPV type to your next partner is not known.  What we do know is that a number of things need to occur, in addition to oncogenic or cancerous HPV infection, before a woman develops cervical cancer. Most women who have an HPV infection clear it on their own and cancer does not develop. Transmitting the virus to your partner rarely results in any disease.  HPV infections in men, like those in women, clear on their own most of the time over a period of time which can last from a few months to several years.  To best understand your specific risk, you should discuss these issues with a healthcare provider that deals with HPV so they can give you more personal guidance.


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