[Question #1425] How to Tell Boyfriend About HPV

45 months ago
Hello,

I  am a 49-year old woman with HPV and have been diagnosed with one of the high risk strains (16). I am in a relationship and am ashamed that I did not reveal my status to my partner right from the beginning. What's worse is that we've had unprotected sex. (No one can judge me more than I judge myself.) I feel terrible and that I should tell my boyfriend, esp. since I need to have a small area of low-grade dysphasia removed from a spot on my vulva where there has never been anything before. Is there a way to tell my boyfriend - and how - about HPV without scaring him, particularly when there's so much on the Internet about HPV and other cancers beyond cervical?  Thank you for your advice.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
45 months ago
Welcome to the Forum.  I'll be pleased to comment.  From my perspective, if anything, your BF should be supporting you as you deal with your vulvar dysplasia, and there should not be any concern about his exposure to your HPV.   My comment is not meant to suggest that if you are close enough to share such information that you should not, but his exposure to your HPV infection is jjust not that big a deal.  The majority of,sexually active adults have Helen exposed to high risk HPV.  Further and importantly, 
1.  There is no assurance that his exposure to your infection has resulted in infection for him.
2.  Nearly all H PV infections resolve spontaneously without consequence.  This is more true for men than women.
3.  The serious consequence of HPV, cancer is even rarer in men than women (and, FYI, that you have a dysplasia lesion does not mean that he is at higher risk for infection or cancer than anyone else exposed to a partner with high risk HPV)

I hope these perspectives and comments are helpful.  EWH
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45 months ago
Thank you very much for your reassuring words and understanding, Dr. Hook.  It would seem to be wise for my BF and me to start using condoms, just in case he hasn't already been infected. Is that right?  What's your advice regarding oral sex?  
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
45 months ago
We do not recommend condoms in circumstances such as yours.  Your BF has been exposed and for all of the reasons mentioned above condoms offer little benefit.  In the same vein, I see no reason to abstain from oral sex.  This is not to deny that on rare occasions oral sex leads to acquisition of pharyngeal HPV or complications but the events are very, very rare.  EWH 
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45 months ago
Thank you, Dr. Hook. I'm trying to wrap my head around the prevalence of HPV. It sounds like so many have been exposed and infected. Is it possible that my BF could have been exposed and even infected long before meeting me, but never showed symptoms? I'm wondering whether it would help him to know there may not be much new here, beyond my diagnosis? 
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
45 months ago
Good question.  You are absolutely correct.  HPV symptoms are visible genital warts, nothing more and most people with HPV, particularly high risk types do not develop warts or other symptoms.  On the other hand, careful scientific studies show that following the onset of sexual intercourse, people acquire HPV at a rate of 15-20% ;per year (even those with a single sexual partner), thus by the time most people are in their mid-20s, over 80% (conservatively) of adults have acquired HPV and most of them do not know it.  There is really nothing new here for him beyond your diagnosis.  EWH
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