[Question #3770] HPV is not forever. Myth or fact?

33 months ago
Many Doc says that HPV is not forever. My doc said that if I had been infected with HPV, my immune system kills HPV within 2 years.  He also said that I will get HPV if I am reinfected with another individual.  Moreover, I am in a relationship with a virgin who is not vaccinated. She tested negative for HPV DNA test.  My question: if our immune system kills HPV, then why people are freaked out about it.   The word "kill" is quite confusing:  Kill means dormancy or clearing out of the system.  if dormancy, what causes it to come out.    
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
33 months ago
Welcome back to the Forum although I must say, I am sorry to see you back again asking questions which suggest that you are obsessing over a problem which is largely vaccine preventable and which is little more than a nuisance for persons who become infected and follow sexual heath care recommendations.  Your questions suggest that you are going to the internet for information, a practice which is most likely to confuse you and promote your anxiety through the large amounts of misinformation,  out of date statements or statements which are misleading because they are taken out of context.  If you want to learn more about HPV infections I suggest you look at the ASHA or CDC websites for information on the topic.

The concept of your immune system "killing" HPV infection, should you acquire it (remember, there is no evidence you have HPV, nor any reason to think that your virginal partner has HPV) is an oversimplification.  The immune system plays a powerful role in preventing and controlling HPV but to say that it "kills" HPV is probably incorrect.  For persons who are vaccinated, the immune response prevents about 99% of infections by the types of HPV in the vaccine, thereby also dramatically reducing any risk for development of PAP smear abnormalities or pre-cancerous lesions.  For persons (vaccinated or unvaccinated) who acquire HPV infection, the immune system clears the infection over a period of months, making it no longer infectious to others, no longer detectable and unlikely to progress.  Most experts believe that the virus is likely still present in a controlled, non-infectious, dormant state however.  In the tiny proportion of persons in whom dormant viruses re-activate, it is believe that factors which weaken the immune system such as caner chemotherapy contribute to re-emergence of the virus.

My advice to you is to chill out and relax.  For most persons who acquire HPV it is nothing more than a nuisance.  For those in who it progresses, routinely recommended sexual health practices. prevents bad things from happening.  You have been vaccinated for HPV, your GF should be.  After that, you need to relax and go forward without concern and follow routine sexual health recommendations.  End of story.  EWH


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33 months ago
My apologies. I am worried I feel like I somehow got cancer causing strain (HPV 16) with two protected sex encounter.  This really gives me anxiety.  That's why I can not move on.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
33 months ago
The problem is your processing and the resultant anxiety, not HPV 16.  If you cannot move on I suggest you seek professional help in doing so.  People die from the flu too, probably more often than people get cancer and die from HPV 16.  Keep in mind:

1.  Over 30% of adults will acquire HPV 16.  Over 99% of those infections will not progress to concern and/or will be successfully managed if persons follow standard sexual health screening practices.
2.  In your case, your exposures were very low risk.  It is unlikely that you have HPV.
3.  You do not know you have HPV and there is no evidence that you do.
4.  Going forward, vaccination will virtually eliminate any risk for HPV 16 and HPV 16-related disease.

Your risk of being struck by lightening is higher (much higher) than your risk for HPV-related cancer.  If you approached the rest of your life in the manner that you appear to be approaching your risk for HPV-related cancer, you would never leave your house.  EWH
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33 months ago
Thank you for making this very clear. I have an issue with me. I am currently under psycho therapist treatment.