[Question #1389] Can I get hpv any other way than having sex with an infected person?

48 months ago
I am a 50 year old female who has been with my husband since the age of 15.  We both dated other folks but it never resulted in sex just fondling etc... We were married at age 25.  He is the only person I have ever had sex with and I believed I was the only person he had sex with until I tested positive for hpv(13 high risks types 16/18/31/33/35/39/45/51/52/56/58/59/68 without differentiation) ten years ago and then again 6 months ago.  The first positive was with a normal pap and was negative 6 month later.  My gynecologist explained that all sexual active people can contract hpv so I didn't worry about it so I didn't.  All test were negative with normal paps for the next 10 years then came another positive. This time there were a lot more information on hpv online, everywhere.  Almost everything states including my  gynecologist and primary dr  that you only get hpv from having sex with someone infected with hpv.  I never suspected my husband of having an affair till this occurred.  He says that he has not had sex with no one else.  Is there another way to contract hpv other than having sex with an infected person?
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
48 months ago

Welcome to our Forum.  I'll try to help.  The short answer is yes, there are other explanations for your positive test for HPV.  The explanation however is longer and more complex, as is my advice related to your question.

There are several possible explanations for your recent positive test.  There is no doubt that the vast  majority of HPV infections are acquired through sexual contact (I chose the word "contact" because even non-penetrative rubbing and contact can lead to HPV infection).  Because the majority of infections are acquired in this way, that is what most of the research has focused on however there are MANY high quality studies which show that persons who have never had sex do, on regular occasions have HPV infection.  In addition to non-penetrative sex, HPV and HPV DNA can be very rarely be transmitted on less than optimally cleaned equipment and through other poorly understood mechanisms.  Secondly, for reasons that again are complex and not fully understood, once a person has HPV and it goes away or resolves, after variable time periods the infection can again be detected in the highly sensitive lab tests now used to detect infection.  Finally, lab tests can be falsely positive for a variety of reasons as well.

My advice is to do two things. 

1.  You should find out what type of HPV is present, if at all.  The sort of general screening result that you mention for multiple HPV types is non-specific and may give erroneous results.

2.  Do not judge your relationship based on a lab test.  Rather, your test and concerns are a good reason to have a serious conversation with your husband,,  After 25 years of marriage, your sense of his truthfulness and behavior are probably just about as good as a non-specific lab test.  such conversations should not be accusations but concerned questions carried out so that the answer need to be immediate but be thought about before questions are answered.

I hope this perspective is helpful to you.  EWH

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48 months ago
I appreciate your quick response.  I am so grateful to find this service. There is so much misinformation out there.  I am returning for my follow up pap tomorrow.  Both of the  positive test were preformed by the gynecologist I will be going to tomorrow.  All the negatives(other than the follow up) were completed by my primary. It sounds like there are big difference in test which might be part of my results.  What type of test do I need to ask for to determine which hpv strain I have come into contact with?  I expect she will preform the same test as last time.   
I was  concerned over a possible affair but really do believe my husband. We have been fortunate in our marriage.  It has caused additional concern for my health since two positive hpv results so far apart are uncommon.  
Thanks again for your help.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
48 months ago
Thanks for your followup.  It may be that the HPV infection detected 10 years ago may have persisted over that period.  Further, it sounds as though your Pap smears (as opposed to the HPV tests) have been normal.  If that is the case, detection of HPV adds little value to your care and be misleading.  

Is this comment helpful?  EWH
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48 months ago
My Pap smears have been normal thru out the years.  The hpv test have been positive.  From my research it appears that the virus can be dormate for 10+years and now it seems it can be active for 10 years consistently or off and on.  Since the test that was positive was a generalized test it doesn't really tell me much about the actual strain that I have so it is not very useful.  So it would seem  my best approach to the hpv issue is continue to have the generalized test with my pap yearly. If the pap comes back abnormal then I need to worry and follow up but the hpv positive is too general to be concerned with.  I would like to find a doctor that has a better understanding of hpv. How do I find a doctor who is more up to date with hpv information/training.? Is there a certificate or something I can look for when researching doctors.  This past 6 months have been quite stressful. Since the two doctors I have visited are not up to date on hpv.  

Thanks so much for you quick response and the up to date information you provided.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
48 months ago

There is no good way to tell what a doctor knows about HPV or how they interpret this rapidly evolving field. 

My suggestion however is to just get the PAP smears without the HPV test.  If HPV is present it is irrelevant unless it causes the sorts of pre-cancerous problems that warrant therapy.  Thus, rather than trap yourself into a state of anxiety and concern over a virus that is present and doing you no harm other than to make you anxious, I would suggest you just have the PAP smears.  Others may disagree.  EWH

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48 months ago
I went for my follow up today. I found out that I did not test positive for 16 or 18 but that is as specific the test gets. I am relieved to learn this.  I am going to take your advise and only have Pap smears in the future.  This whole experience has been very stressful with no benefit.  I wish I could get the word out about this service because there is so much incomplete information out there.  I appreciate your help and information with this issue.  Thanks, again.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
48 months ago

)Thanks for your note and the follow-up.  I endorse your decision and wish you the best going forward.  Take care

(As per Forum guidelines, this post will now be closed.  EWH

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