Hello and welcome to our forum for HPV. We're glad to have you here with us.
The types of HPV found on the cervix are usually not the same kinds that cause external genital warts. Therefore, a female with "high risk" cervical HPV may never show symptoms of genital warts because she may not have been exposed to the type(s) of "low risk" HPV that can cause genital warts. Likewise, it would be difficult to test a male for the types of HPV that cause cervical infection because males typically do not show symptoms for the kinds of HPV that affect a woman's cervix. Men can carry these types without ever knowing it. Of course, it is possible to have both "high risk" and "low risk" HPV at the same time, and women do sometimes receive diagnosis of both abnormal cervical cell changes and vaginal or vulvar warts. Ask your health care provider to explain your specific diagnosis if any of this is unclear.
When one partner has HPV it is most likely that their current partner shares the virus, although this may be impossible to prove, as there are limited HPV testing options in most cases. Men do contract genital HPV, but as mentioned above don't have clinically detected lesions in most cases.
A great deal remains unknown about transmission patterns among couples and the guidance (including ours) is often inconsistent and confusing, to say the least. There are experts who don't think it is likely couples sharing the same HPV type(s) will "ping-pong" the virus back and forth to reinfect each, and we're not aware of any data that indicate this is likely to be an issue. Some studies suggest that using condoms might help both the virus and associated skin lesions clear a bit more quickly, so this is an option to consider.
Cell changes associated with HPV do recur in some cases, but by no means all. When they do recur, they show varying degrees of persistence. Some people may experience only one episode, while others may experience several. However, most people's immune systems, with time, seem to gain control over HPV, making recurrences less frequent and usually eliminating them eventually.
Follow up Pap tests are important, as there is no way to monitor whether or not lesions are regressing/appearing on your own.
The immune system is thought to assert itself over time and actually reduce the virus to very low levels. When this happens, it isn't clear to researchers if HPV is eliminated completely, or simply at a point where it's undetectable. There is no way to predict when this natural suppression may occur, however, and the virus may be contagious to a new partner in the meantime. Still, HPV does not appear to be persistent in most cases.
In regard to cervical HPV, if a person has been successfully treated (if needed) and has had no cervical abnormalities for a year or more, some experts would consider the risk of HPV transmission with a new partner to be extremely low.
Unfortunately, it is not known how long the period of being contagious may last, or when HPV could recur. However, the virus does seem to be transient for most.
Wow - that's a long answer! I hope it helps and that you'll visit us again.
All the best,