[Question #6653] Getting HPV

13 months ago
[Question #71] You provided the following answer.

It's more or less a routine, expected, unavoidable consequence of being a sexually active human being, except in the unusual circumstance of a mutually monogamous couple in which neither person has ever had (and never will have) sex with anyone else.

My wife and I been together since we were 17. She dated two guys before me and claimed it was only hand to genital contact and one oral sex encounter. I believed her and she was always open about her previous history and even told me she wanted to wait until marriage for intercourse.  Myself, I've never touched a woman in a sexual manner other than kissing other girls.  My wife was my first for everything.   We're both 44 now and she recently had a Pap which came back positive for HPV. My wife called me right after getting this news.  We're both shocked at the results and now it's got me questioning the faithfulness of my wife or was she truly a virgin when we started dating.  Both of us claim we've been faithful and never had intercourse with anyone besides each other.  The more I read on the internet, the more confused I am, and the more concerned I am if my wife is telling the truth.   

Is it possible to get HPV from hand to genital contact when she was 17? Her OBGYN said yes but your answer seems to go against that information.  We're both in the same room so not sure if the MD is covering for her and trying to protect her.  

Can oral sex transmit it?

Can kissing transmit it?

Would the virus stay dormant that long?
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
13 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your question, your confidence in our services, and reading other threads with questions like your own.

The quote from a few years ago is correct. However, you are over-reading it in a way. It says that lifelong mutual monogamy makes HPV unlikely, but ti doesn't say that no life monogaomous couples have HPV. Some do. We don't always know why and how they acquire genital HPV, and we never know when. We just know it happens. Perhaps some HPV is not sexually transmitted but acquired in other ways. This must be rare, but it cannot be excluded as a possibility. Your wife may have been infected through one of her hand-genital exposures. This is beleived to be rare, but nobody can say it never happens. (HPV DNA is often found under the fingernails of people with genital HPV infection. That suggests that hand-genital transmission might be possible.) Kissing is generally described as having no risk for HPV, but probably there are exceptions there as well. HPV isn't rare in the oral cavity, and logically it could be transmitted once in a while by kissing. Once present in the oral cavity, it probably can sometimes be transmitted by oral sex; or by auto-infection of one's own genitals, with subsequent transmission to a monogamous partner.

The point is that having HPV does not in itself mean either you or your wife ever had other sexual exposures you have not discussed with one another. If you have believed and trusted your wife up til now, her abnormal pap smear should not change that. You should continue to trust and believe her.

Those comments address your first two questions. As for the last comment, the answer is definitely yes:  HPV can lie dormant for 10, 20, 30 and probably more years, and then reactivate to cause an abnormal pap smear or to be transmitted sexually to a partner.

Do your best not to worry about this or overthink it. The important aspect is for your wife to stick with her doctor's advice about treatment and/or follow-up. You're never going to know when and how her HPV was acquired, so there's no point in dwelliing on it.

I hope these comments help. Let me know if anything isn't clear.

HHH, MD
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13 months ago
Dr. Handsfield,

Thank you for the quick response.  I've had some time to think about it.  We can only assume it had to come from one of the two guys before me.  First guy as far as she knew was a virgin and was her first hand to genital and performed oral sex on her.  The second guy was a college guy who likely had more experiences that could have been the source but he was only hand to genital. French kissing was involved with both (so possible I guess).  Based on your answers, one of these rare options might have been it. I've been her only oral sex partner. She's had girlfriends kiss her after a night of drinking  but those weren't french kisses, so that option is likely very low?

We believe one another and really never had a reason to question faithfulness until now.  She immediately called me after getting her results which at least told me she felt I was the source.  If she had been unfaithful, she could have hid this from me forever and I wouldn't known the difference.  The hard part is not knowing how it was contracted and with who.  Like a cold virus, I don't know who I got it from.  

Should we stop oral sex until her pap is negative or it doesn't matter since I likely have it now?

I'm assuming over time, we'll both develop antibodies to this virus.  So we won't keep passing it back and forth?

Since she's positive now, assuming now is the time I'm most likely to be positive for it or could it stay dormant in me for 10, 20, 30 years?   Could I've got it from her a long time ago and already build antibodies to it (like in my 20's / 30's) or is now the time I'm likely infected with it?

One last point, I hope the medical community will develop a test for men.  I sure would like to be tested yearly.  Seems like the burden falls on the women.   Thank you again for having his forum.  I needed to get my own answers.  I'm ready to move forward and stop dwelling on it.  I hope she's able to do the same.






H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
13 months ago
I can tell this whole thing is bothering you a lot. It really shouldn't. It's almost never possible to know when or from whom a particular HPV infection was acquired and it really shouldn't matter. And as discussed above, some infections probably are not sexually acquired at all. Some infections just can't be explained with current knowledge, and you're in exactly the same boat as thousands of couples every year. The important thing is that your wife follow her doctor's advice about follow-up and treatment, if recommended. Please re-read my comment above starting with "The point is..." and don't overthink all this or spend any more time or energy trying to figure out where her HPV came from

You should not stop having sex at all. Undoubtedly you and/or your wife have had this infection for years and have repeated exposed and re-exposed one another whenever it was transmissible -- which it might have been on and off for all these years. Stopping sex (oral or otherwise) at this point is closing the barn door after the horse has spent years out of the barn anyway. As this implies, you can assume you have or have had this infection -- and yes, possibly for your entire adult life.

One reason there is no recommneded test for men is that there's nothing to do if infection is found. No advice to improve health, no advice to prevent transmission, nothing. Please try to look at HPV for what it is, part of the normal bacteria and viruses that inhabit the human body. Having it is a normal, expected consequence of being human. Look around at your friends or co-workers and contemplate the fact that almost all have had HPV, and many or most still have it. It's just the way life is!

Thanks for the thanks. I'm glad it is helping you. Please share this discussion with your wife as well.
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13 months ago
Yes...it was bothering for both of us until now.  We're getting close to those mid-life crisis years and some of our circle of friends who are in those years are sadly  getting divorced.  When you believe you've been clean with one partner your whole life, the imagination can run wild, which I allowed it to do as both of us lack knowledge in this area.  This has been a huge help and really open the door of communication between my wife and I. This experience likely improved our marriage as a result.  I'm over the concern of HPV.  Thanks, again! 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
13 months ago
Thanks for the kind words. I'm very happy to have helped.

That completes the two follow-up exchanges included with each question and so ends this thread. Best wishes to you and your wife!
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