Let's cover some HPV basics first, for those who are new to the board. The types of HPV that cause genital warts are referred to as "low risk" because there is little or no chance they will lead to any type of cancer. Even the "high risk" types that are linked with cervical (and some other) cancers are seldom dangerous, as lost-for-now mentions, and cervical cancer can almost always be avoided by women having regular Pap tests.
This entire discussion on the "natural history" of HPV is one we sometimes breeze through, but one that should probably be developed more. There is no medical cure for ANY viral infection, including HPV, but as with so many things the immune system is most often able to respond to HPV over time and either suppress or clear the virus. So what does this mean?
Well....we ain't too sure, but here's the thinking. Long term issues with HPV, like warts or cervical cell changes persisting or recurring for a very long time, aren't at all common and when this does happen it may be linked to factors like smoking, stress/lifestyle/nutrition, or an illness that taxes the immune system.
So is one always contagious? No one can prove that one way or another at present, but many (perhaps most) researchers would say that one who has gone a year or two with no recurrences has likely seen their chances of transmitting the virus to a new partner diminish greatly. Can you prove this? No, as there is no data or transmission studies.
Facts partners should understand include:
HPV is common and most sexually active people have one or more HPV infections over their lifetime.
It could take weeks, months, or potentially years after exposure before a diagnosis is made, so HPV within an established relationship does not automatically equate to anyone being unfaithful.
The virus is usually harmless and cleared/suppressed by natural immunity without visible symptoms appearing.
A key message is for most all women to continue having Pap tests as directed.
Hope this helps,