[Question #7077] Past HPV/Genital Wart Diagnosis Disclosure

8 months ago

In 2012 I went to dermatologist with genital wart concern. The doctor gave diagnosis of HPV, removed the warts, and biopsied one revealing wart was HPV but not high-risk strain. Doctor told me I would have HPV for an indefinite time and needed to inform all partners. I asked the doctor again in 2014 if I needed to keep telling partners even though I hadn’t had any warts for a while and she said yes, disclosure was necessary.  I have continued to inform partners of my HPV diagnosis even though I haven’t seen a wart in years and many partners have told me it isn’t necessary to keep disclosing.

I usually say one of the following to disclose:   

  1. I have hpv but not the cancer-causing kind 
  2. I was diagnosed with hpv several years ago but not the kind that causes cancer 
  3. Occasionally I tell the story: “one day I saw something on my penis, went to doctor, and she said it was HPV but not the kind that causes cancer.”

In March 2020 I disclosed to a casual sex partner before we had sex the second time that “I had HPV (or had tested positive for HPV in the past) but not the kind that causes cancer”. She seemed fine with this as we had sex afterwards and she continued communication for several months after. But several days ago we spoke and she accused me of intentionally giving her genital warts. She says that I had a legal duty to tell her that I had had genital warts and not just HPV and had committed a crime by not specifying.  I’m terribly upset by all this.  Two questions:

  1. Is it correct to say I had/have HPV or is it necessary to say genital warts? I was under the impression saying I had HPV was correct and the really important distinction was low versus high risk HPV. Was that incorrect to say I had tested positive for HPV and not explicitly say genital warts?
  2. Is it still necessary for me to tell people I have HPV or tested positive for HPV if it was almost 8 years ago and I haven’t had any genital warts in such a long time?  Thanks in advance!  

Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
8 months ago
Welcome to our forum and thanks for your question. I also congratulate you on your practice of disclosure to sexual partners although on this forum.  Although we do encourage disclosure as a best practice, we do not feel that this is absolutely necessary.  The reasons for this are that so much is misunderstood about HPV, that misinterpretation is common, and that so many such a large proportion of the population who have not been vaccinated already have HPV that it is impossible to tell where an HPV infection came from.  Going forward, I believe that stating that you have had HPV, that it was treated by a doctor and has not occurred for several years is the most accurate statement.  At this time the likelihood of you transmitting that long past infection to others is minuscule.  In answer to your specific questions:

1.  HPV is correct and the preferred term.
2.  On this forum we have advised that we do not feel that it is crucial that persons with HPV inform future sexual partners following successful treatment. As I mentioned above the chance of your HPV recurring is minuscule.

Finally, I would add, that typically it takes several months following exposure for new genital warts to appear. There is no way to know where your partners infection came from. 

I hope that this information is helpful to you. If anything is unclear or there are further questions, please don’t hesitate to use your up to follow up questions for clarification. EWH