[Question #3719] time to hpv becoming non-infectious

34 months ago
How long after an encounter does a high risk hpv infection take to be non-infectious? I read 6 months on here? That's 6 months after exposure? and do they become less transmittable given time?  How long do those take to show up on tests? I know there are tests for women, but from what I understand none for men. I believe I read at least weeks? 
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
34 months ago
Welcome back to the Forum.  I have followed your earlier interaction with Dr. Handsfield and agree with all that he has said.  We share the Forum and I happened to pick up your questions this time.  Before I get to the specific questions, please let me point out several important points.  Because HPV infections are of such minor consequence for men, and because men are more challenging to study than women for a variety of reasons, there is less data for men than women. Thus much of what I am about to tell you relates to data generated in women.  In addition, the data that I provide will reflect average figures which, while widely accepted, are an estimate- when it comes to timing of vaccine effect, timing of clearance, etc.  Now on to your questions:

1.  The average figure for HPV to become no longer detectable and therefore non-infectious is 6-12 months although in some persons it can take up to 2 years or even longer.

2.  It is presumes that when the virus is no longer detectable, whether from treatment or clearance, it is no longer infectious.  Whether infectiousness is graded over the time that it takes this process to occur is unclear. 

3.  I think your final question related to how long does it take for HPV to be detectable.  If that is the question, you are correct, weeks at least.  Most people who acquire HPV and develop warts do so in within 3-6 months of exposure.  Most do so by three months.

I hope this information is helpful to you.  I must say however, having read this and your earlier questions, I think you may be putting more time and energy into these concerns than they realistically warrant.  EWH
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34 months ago
Oh cool, thanks Doc! 2 follow ups
1. HPV detectable time period you stated is similar for all the strains, even the non-wart ones like HPV-16/18? 
2. Also, if one time exposure is really close to zero risk for HPV transmission, would hooking up with a girl once every week or once every other week still constitute "one time exposures" since they are spread apart? Condom usage was >95%, but not every time. 
I am putting more time and energy into these concerns than I want, but I would feel bad passing it to someone else and also embarrassed to be honest. I guess I'd love to know your opinion on why it isn't a big deal? It just seems like such a gray area and even though you have the greatest expertise in this arena, it seems like there is still a lot that isn't known? That's where the questions come from. I would love to be wrong about that. I'm just the kind of person who likes to know. Thanks a ton, Doc! 
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
34 months ago
Before I address your questions, I must tell you that Dr. Handsfield and I have discussed your questions at length.  They closely resemble in many ways another set of questions we have recently received form another (perhaps) client) who identifies himself as Aaron but used a different e-mail address to post his questions.  Both sets of questions include a number of rather repetitive, anxious sounding questions seeking much detail regarding HPV-16.  This is, in our experience quite unusual and causes us to assume that you are the same person using different e-mail addresses. this is a violation of Forum policy.  We will give you 24 hours to acknowledge that this is the case or explain why we should not think this is the case.  If not, we will delete all e-mails which resemble those we have already received, perhaps at the cost of deleting e-mails form other users, and delete future e-mails of this sort without comment and without refund of the posting fee.

Now for your follow-up questions:
1.  Correct, as best we know with the limitations noted above.
2.  The per exposure risk of HPV acquisition following unprotected exposure to an infected partner is unknown although it is clear that like most STIs, the vast majority of unprotected single exposures do not lead to infection.  Condoms reduce the risk of infection further, by 40-60% by most estimates.  The risk from repeated exposures is additive- more exposures, infection becomes more likely but is till low.

We agree that you are putting FAR more time and energy into worrying about this widespread, usually innocuous infections than is warranted.  Despite the association with cancer, well over 99% of HPV infections resolve, on their own and without consequence.  While there is much to be known, what is known suggests that other than routine reproductive health care for women and seeking evaluation for abnormal findings in men, worrying about HPV infections is an inefficient use of time and energy.  EWH



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34 months ago
I have reviewed the other questions that have been on here and some of them caused questions of my own, which I can imagine is common on here and that many of us have similar questions? So I apologize if they’ve already been covered. Beyond that, I have no explanation. I can also imagine many questions on here may seem anxious sounding as most people aren’t here for the heck of it.  And, the high risk strains like hpv 16/18 are the most talked about. Just gathering some facts. 
My last questions are that a woman cannot pass high risk hpv to a baby right? 
That being said, You’ve been helpful and thanks for your time. Sorry if there’s been any confusion 
34 months ago
You had said that the information provided is mainly from studies in women for your first response and mentioned vaccine effect and timing, etc... Would the time to HPV detectability/wart appearance be the same for men and women? Thanks again
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
34 months ago
1. Correct, no meaningful risk of high risk HPV transmission, woman to child during delivery or activities of daily living.

2.  Time to detection, wart appearance is presumed to be about the same for men and women.

This is my 3rd and therefore last reply to this thread.  There will be no further answers.  In addition, future repetitive, anxiety-driven, nuanced questions about theoretical fine risks related to HPV acquisition may be deleted without a response and without refund of your posting fee.  As I said above, our sense is that you are overthinking this.  Further, if you are seeking information on the Internet, we would urge you to stop.  The statements there are often made out of context, are out of date, or are just plain wrong.  EWH
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