[Question #332] HPV and continued Sexual Activities
35 months ago
Recently diagnosed w HPV not 16 or 18. Have been having unprotected oral and vaginal sex w boyfriend for 3 months. Can we assume we both have it? Are there any tests HE should do for his own health? Also assuming we both have it and only sexually active with eachother does increased or repeated exposure w same partner unprotected increase chance of something developing? Or once we're exposed and have it nothing we don't need to change what we're doing with eachother? If goes dormant w/i 2 years can we or are we then just reinfecting eachother?
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
35 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your question. I'm happy to help. These are some of the most common questions asked about HPV. In addition to my comments below, you might consider using the forum's search function to see other discussions about it.
Certainly your boyfriend has been repeatedly exposed to your HPV infection. He could now be infected, or could even be the source of your HPV. Or if he previously was infected himself with the same HPV type, he might be resistant and unable to catch it again. Probably you'll never know for sure. If he has HPV at this time, it is unlikely he will develop symptoms (unless you are infected with HPV 6 or 11, the main cause of genital warts). Further, if infected, he can expect his immune system to clear it over the next few months. In absence of symptoms (e.g. warts), there is nothing to do. For these reasons, CDC recommends that the partners of people with known HPV infections not be tested and not even be examined, unless and until they notice symptoms like warts. I and most experts agree exactly with that advice from CDC.
As already implied, people develop immunity, or at least substantial resistance, to HPV types with which they were infected. Therefore, it is generally believed that couples do not "ping pong" their mutual HPV infections back and forth, and repeated exposure is not known to increase the risk of "something developing", i.e. warts, pre-cancer, or any other health problems. Your own statement is correct: I agree exactly that you "don't need to change what [you're] doing with each other" -- no restrictions on your sexual expression with one another.
The main thing now is proper management of your HPV infection. Follow your doctor's advice if your pap smear is abnormal, and keep on the lookout in the event either of you develops external genital warts (which I do not expect). In addition, if you and your partner are under age 26 and have not yet been vaccinated against HPV, that would be wise. The main HPV vaccine, Gardasil-9, will protect both of you from future infections with any of the types in the vaccine with which you have not yet been infected.
I hope this has helped. Let me know if anything isn't clear. Best wishes-- HHH, MD