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National Cervical Cancer Coalition

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 Post subject: wildly confused....
PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 10:13 am 

Joined: Tue Mar 13, 2007 10:05 am
Posts: 1
i am a 23 year old college student. long story short, i just found out i might have HPV. my exgirlfriend, with whom my relationship has been rocky to say the least, told me that a routine pap smear came up abnormal, and that she has contracted HPV.

here are the issues:
1. i last had sexual contact (no condom!) with her almost two months before she found out, as i had broken up with her in the intermediate time. so i have no idea if i have it or not, but must assume, i guess, that i do.

2. she refuses to tell me what strain she has. she has told me that it is one of the strains that causes cervical cancers, but said that the doctor didnt' tell her what strain. this seems odd, and i really want to know what strain it is simply to have a grasp on what i might have.

3.what does MIGHT having HPV mean for me? do i have to wear a condom every time i get a blowjob, or abstain from sex all together, simply b/c i might have the disease?

any advice would be greatly appreciated.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 3:17 pm 
Site Admin

Joined: Wed Oct 04, 2006 4:08 pm
Posts: 2122
Location: North Carolina
Hello and thanks for your post.

Your situation is one that comes up for men very often, let me tell you.

It is estimated that 75-80% of sexually active people in the United States have or have had some type(s) of HPV. The types found on the cervix are usually not the same kinds that cause external genital warts. Therefore, a female with cervical HPV may never show symptoms of genital warts because she may not have been exposed to the type(s) of 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.

One of the most frustrating aspects of HPV is that no HPV tests for men are widely used, and none are approved to be utilized clinically. HPV DNA tests do exist, but are done with research studies and their exact reliability with males is not known. As a result, most cases remain unconfirmed clinically.

There are some things that may be helpful for men in your position to keep in mind about HPV, however. Please realize none of this is to minimize the potential of having HPV by any means; rather, it's to offer a perspective that is often overlooked.

We mentioned above how common genital HPV is, but that negative health outcomes are uncommon. Even among women with "high-risk" types, most will never have an abnormal Pap test as a result.

When women do in fact have abnormal cell changes detected that are due to "high-risk" HPV, they are usually treatable so that cancer is avoidable. In many cases, mild abnormal cell changes will resolve naturally, so treatment is not always undertaken. The most important thing for a current or future partner to do is to have Pap smears at regular intervals, as directed by her health care provider.

So what about future partners? It's difficult to provide specific guidance because there is no practical way to determine 1) if you contracted HPV from your former partner or 2) if you did, is the virus currently active and contagious (more on that later).

Condoms are, of course, never a bad idea in a new relationship. It's difficult to define any obligation you might have to discuss HPV with a new partner for the reasons mentioned above (namely there's no real way to know if you contracted the virus from your former partner, or can transmit it if you did).

Having frank, open discussions is a good idea for most any new relationship and in discussing HPV with a new partner, it probably would be good to make this part of a broader, two-way discussion about sexuality and sexual health, not as some "confession" you're obligated to blurt out - never lose site of the fact you have not done anything wrong, and that being exposed to genital HPV is more or less a part of being a normal, sexually active adult.

Talking points might include our previous discussion regarding the ubiquitous nature of HPV, the fact that health issues do not often develop, and the importance of regular Pap tests.

It's also important to understand 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.

I hope this offers some perspective, and post again if other questions come up.

All the best,

ASHA Moderator

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