[Question #2758] HPV question

43 months ago
Good Morning,
Yesterday my girlfriend got her results from a Pap smear and it was positive for HPV. We are both a little distraught but we have each other's support. My girlfriend and I have been dating for 11 months now. We had unprotected sex for the first time back in January (two months into our relationship). She has had previous partners before me and I have had previous partners before her. Her last Pap Smear was in 2015 and everything was normal. The GYN told us that the precancerous cells looked pretty advanced. Is it possible that I gave her HPV or is it more likely that she contracted it even before we started having intercourse? 

Thank You
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
43 months ago
Welcome fo the forum. Thanks for your confidence in our services. But unfortunately (or perhaps all for the better) I cannot give a clear answer to your main question.

It is rarely possible to know when and from whom any particular HPV infection was acquired. And rarely necessary. I would suggest it doesn't matter when (or from whom) your partner acquired the HPV causing her abnormal pap smear. Perhaps you were the source. But it is equally likely she had it before your relationship began. In either case, you can assume you are infected with it. Her doctor's assessment that the precancerous cells are "advanced" says nothing about how long the infection has been present. It is equally likely to have "advanced" progression 3 months or 10 years after acquiring the infection.

If you and your partner are under age 26, I would recommend you both be immunized to prevent infection with most of the 9 HPV types covered by the current vaccine. She should follow her gynecologist's advice about follow-up to assure there is no progression to cancer.  The large majority of cases do not progress, even with "advanced" cellular changes, but better safe than sorry. Finally, if you ever develop wart-like bumps or non-healing sores of the penis, see a doctor. Beyond these things, go on with your life as normal. Follow this advice and in the long run nothing serious will come of this.

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

HHH, MD

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43 months ago
My girlfriend and I are both 25 years old. However, I did have the vaccines when I was about 19-20 and not sexually active yet. I did have unprotected sex with another girl about a year ago before meeting my girlfriend. My girlfriend has not had the vaccines. Is it still possible that I contracted a high risk HPV strain and passed it to my girlfriend even if I had the vaccines?

Thank You 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
42 months ago
Sorry for taking so long to get to this follow-up question.

The vaccine you received 5-6 years ago probably was Gardasil-4, i.e. covered 4 HPV types, the two most likely to cause warts and two more that account for about 70% of high risk HPV infections. Today's vaccine covers 5 additional types, covering the sae wart-causing types and 7 high risk types. So it definitely is possible you could have acquired a high risk HPV strain after vaccination and are the source of your partner's infection. But the stress is on "possible". It's probably more likely she was infected by some other partner. In any case, as I said above, it doesn't matter. At this point, where and from whom your partner's HPV came from is irrelevant:  it has no influence on her health, her medical care, your health, or anything else. I strongly urge you to disregard and ignore any other thoughts that may come to mind about the source of her infection. Just make sure she follows her doctor's advice about follow-up and otherwise forget about it. (Oh and by the way, you should say nothing about any of this to your sex partner of a year ago.)

If you and your current partner are in a committed relationship that is likely to last, I would recommend against her getting the HPV vaccine, or you being re-immunized with the newer vaccine. However, if the relationship is not likely to continue and you are likely to move on to other partners in the future, it would be reasonable for you both to be vaccinated.

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