[Question #726] Transmitting HPV after almost 15 years

55 months ago
Hi Doctor,
My ex-boyfriend just called to tell me that his new girlfriend has HPV.  I never disclosed my history from my LEEP in 2001 and had subsequent normal paps for several years.  They have been having sex since this January.  I do know that her ex-husband had cheated on her a few times.  Also, my ex-boyfriend has had multiple partners previous to me.  My last pap was normal last May.  Is there any way I could have been the one to pass on HPV to her?  I'm wracked with guilt and anxiety if I had anything to do with this.  I took the advice of this site and some doctors I have consulted not to disclose and now I'm feeling horrible. Thank you for answering my questions.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
55 months ago

Jennifer.  Welcome back to the Forum.  I will provide some perspective and try to help.  I read your earlier interaction with Dr. Handsfield and agree completely when he answered you, including his statement that "The body's immune system clears HPV, usually in a few months. Between that and your LEEP, there is little chance you still have an active HPV infection. HPV DNA can persist longer, perhaps for life -- which is the origin of statements that HPV never entirely goes away. However, late reactivation from persisting DNA is rare and it is unlikely to happen to you. And there is also no significant chance you can transmit the infection to current or future sex partners."

 I think your question says more about you, and perhaps your ex (see below), than it does about the likelihood that you transmitted HPV to your BF who then has transmitted infection to his current partner.  It tells me that that you are a caring, responsible person and I applaud that.  At the same time, I strongly urge you to not worry that you are the cause of your ex's HPV.  While by virtue of your LEEP you can be reasonably confident that you had HPV, as Dr. Handsfield explained, there is little reason to believe that you were infectious subsequently, based on both your regular GYN check-ups and your multiple normal PAP smears.  Most sexually active persons will acquire HPV and there is no good way to tell who gave their infection to whom.  In fact, given your test results, it is unlikely that you were the source of the other woman's infection.  On the other hand, by virtue of the fact that both she and your ex-BF have had other partners, it is to be expected that one or both of them would be infected.  Please know that it is highly unlikely that you were the source (indirectly) of her HPV infection.  you have no reason for guilt over this.

I hope that your ex told you so you could be checked (as you are already doing) rather than in an effort to blame you.  If he was trying to blame you, that blame is misplaced.  Please do not feel in ANY way bad or responsible for the other woman's HPV infection,  EWH



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55 months ago
Another question...how many people really are infected with HPV?  Moving forward with a new partner someday....What is the best way to tell them about HPV history? I think I will feel more comfortable if I do this up front.  In your opinion do most guys handle the news well?  I feel like I've kept a shameful secret so I think the best way for me to deal with it is to share with a new person right away.  In fact, I lived with shame and guilt with this for 15 years. I just feel dirty even though you say it has been resolved for me.  Your thoughts?
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
55 months ago
Conservatively, between 80 and 90% of sexually active adults have or (like you) have had HPV.  Disclosure is always a good course of action as you enter a relationship but if you chose to do this, please make sure that you disclose that you HAD HPV and that it was treated and that since then you have not had evidence of HPV on multiple exams.  when you choose to disclose, I suggest that disclose at some time other than "the heat of the moment" and that you make sure you have the facts.  (more information is available on the ASHA website). Please don't let the fact that you, like most people had HPV embarrass or trouble you.  EWH
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55 months ago
Is Disclosure necessary though since I'm unlikely to transmit the virus. I'm so confused. I'm just so upset about this that I don't know what to do.  It really has given me a depression.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
54 months ago
Sorry for the delayed response to your question.  Occasionally we loose track of follow up questions.  

I see no meaningful need for disclosure.  As pointed out, nearly everyone has had HPV but this does not translate to transmission.  Because there is so much and such a profound misunderstanding about HPV and it's significance, as well as so little to be done about it, we would say that there is no need for disclosure.  Obviously in a perfect world and with an understanding partner disclosure is preferable but we do not view it as a necessity by any means, nor if you plan to disclose is it something that must be done at the beginning of a relationship.

Hope this helps.  You may reply to this comment (I'd be interested in your thoughts)  but as per Forum policy, this thread will be closed later today.  EWH
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