[Question #3232] Disclosing HPV

39 months ago
I have had HPV for about ten years. It never completely goes away even with treatment. I have been thinking about it a lot lately, probably too much.
I have been dating a woman for a short while and we haven't had sex. I told her very soon into the relationship that I had HPV, and if she didn't want to date me I understood. Out of embarrassment I told her that I had no visible signs. The last part isn't true, it is slightly visible. She felt okay about it.

My questions is: Would you advise me to go back and tell her that I do have visible signs of HPV, or just leave it where it is- that I told her I've had it and it was treated, and may come back. I want to be honest and not put her at risk but I may be going way too far.  I apologize for this type of question.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
39 months ago
Welcome back to the forum.

First, I wonder if your apparent HPV infection (genital warts, I assume) have been recently diagnosed and confirmed by a physician. It is unusual for warts to persist 10 years; after that time, persistent bumps sometimes are just scar tissue and not active warts. This is especially true for only "slightly visible" signs. My guess is that you no longer have an active HPV infection.

Second, assuming your prospective partner has been sexually active with other partners, she has been infected with HPV herself. If her past infection(s) included HPV types 6 or 11, which cause most genital warts (and likely the cause of your warts), she is immune and won't catch it again. And even if she does become infected, the worst that will happen is that she will catch your wart infection, which can be easily treated.

As for your specific question, I would never advice being untruthful with a partner about past or current STDs. You should tell her the truth, that you still have a visible abnormality in the area where your warts previously existed; and you cannot guarantee you are not infectious. However, you should also tell her what I have said above, i.e. my doubt that you still have an active HPV infection.

But my main advice by far is that you see a physician and get a specific diagnosis. If any doubt about your own doctor's expertise, ask for referral to a dermatologist. The ideal approach to your partner may be to wait until you have done this and can give her the most accurate infection. But I also stress that even if you still have an active HPV infection, it probably will make no difference to her health.

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

HHH, MD
 
---
39 months ago
Thank you doctor. I did go this morning to my PCP and he said it was HPV. So I will tell my partner. I feel sad about having it. 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
39 months ago
I'm glad you saw your doctor. I'm still slightly surprised that you still have an active wart this long after acquisition (and would also point out that visual diagnosis often is wrong, so it remains possible your doctor is wrong. But assuming it is correct, I'm sorry you feel "sad" about it. Nobody wants warts, but they (and the large majority of all HPV infections) are an inconvenience, not an important health threat. Genital HPV infections should be viewed as normal and unavoidable, experienced by everybody you meet in daily life; and generally an inconvenience, not a significant health threat. Don't make more of this than it deserves, and for goodness' sake don't let it interfere with a new relationship, romance, and rewarding sex.

Presumably your doctor treated it, or prescribed treatment, right? If so, the wart probably will be gone in a few weeks. 
---
39 months ago
Thank you for the encouragement. He treated me with Aldara cream. Sometimes they look like skin tags between my legs but there are small (about the size of the tip of of pencil) wart bumps on shaft that aren't the usual looking bumps. They aren't califlower like but they are raised and have edges. They come and go.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
38 months ago
Sorry that I only saw this comment a month after you posted it, in preparing to close the thread. Not sure why I missed it.

These bumps don't sound like warts, and warts cannot "come and go". And the large majority of skin bumps aren't warts anyway. If the problem continues, I suggest not treating with Aldara or anything else and seeing a dermatologist.

Because of the inordinate delay, I'll leave this open another week or so in case you have additional questions or comments.
---