[Question #2714] HPV

43 months ago
Somewhere in our pre-marriage activity my wife and I contracted HPV.  She had an abnormal Par smear due to HPV. In our subsequent years of monogamy that Pap smear read normal. Recently, however, I had an affair. If I contract a new strain of HPV from my extramarital partner and and my wife has an abnormal Pap in the future, is this certain proof of my affair (assuming she has been monogamous)? Or can an "old" HPV virus reoccur? Wondering if this affair could jeopardize me.   
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
43 months ago
Welcome to the forum.

It is of course entirely normal that your wife (and likely you) acquired HPV before you were a couple. Almost everyone acquires genital HPV at least once, often several times. And the answer to your question is exactly what you probably are hoping to hear:  HPV DNA often (usually? always?) persists after all outward signs of infection are gone and tests negative, and sometimes reactivates in future years. Indeed, this explains a high proportion of abnormal pap smears in women, especially after age 30. So in the event your wife or you again show evidence of an active HPV infection, such as another abnormal pap smear, it could well be reactivation of a distant past infection. It is almost never possible to attribute any particular HPV infection to any single exposure, partner, or even affair. This is an aspect of HPV that bothers many people. But in your situation, it offers exactly the cover you are looking for. It probably won't happen, but if it does, it would not necessarily be from your more recent sexual partnership or any other particular source.

Information about this and other aspects of genital HPV is readily available online. Two excellent resources are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/std) and the sponsor of this forum, the American Sexual Health Association (http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/hpv/).

I hope this information is helpful. Let me know if anything isn't clear.

HHH, MD

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