[Question #730] Possible risk of getting HPV

54 months ago
This happened about 4 years ago. I got fingered twice by the same man with unknown status. We never had sex nor did his penis make contact with my vagina. i remember him taking his penis out with his hand and stroking himself before he started fingering me. Since 4 years ago, I have had four normal pap,  I am still a virgin never having sex and having no other sexual encounters since then and three std test telling me I have NOTHING. Other websites are confusing and tell me that fingering is a risk of HPV and I can't get that out of my head. My gynecologist has told me that the only way I could have gotten HPV is if i had sex ( if he even had HPV) with him. You guys are the experts. I've read your multi post on Medhelp easing my mind for a bit before I freak out again and I still can't get over the fact that I could have gotten something from this incident. Please, is getting fingered, hand to genital to genital a risk for STI? Should I move on from this? 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
54 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your question.

HPV is not known to be transmitted by fingering. There are few absolutes in biology and medicine, and nobody can say this is impossible. But as far as known, only intercourse -- or on rare occasions, maybe oral sex -- transmits HPV. Fingering is risk free for all other STDs as well.

In other words, your gynecologist is correct. You can find almost anything on the internet, and I have no doubt some people have claimed to have acquired HPV or other STDs by hand-genital contact. But personal testimony about rare medical events is just about the worst kind of evidence of their frequency or importance. Most people who make such claims are either trying to save face, or they simply don't understand when and how they were infected.

Having said all that, you need to understand that you probably will have a genial HPV infection someday, assuning you don't plan lifelong celibacy. Over 90% of all persons who have sex at all acquire HPV at least once. And you cannot significantly lower that risk by just deciding to limit yourself to one partner, or by consistent condom use. It's going to happen. Fortunately, the large majority of HPV infections are harmless and never cause symtoms; when it happens, probably you'll never know it. If you have not been vaccinated against HPV, you should do so; it will prevent infection with the 9 HPV types that cause 90% of genital and oral cancers and genital warts, so you'll have that much less worry about it.

So HPV really isn't something to be worried about. It's just part of life.

I hope these comments have helped calm your fears, and maybe also have given you a perspective on HPV you may find useful. But let me know if anything isn't clear.

Best wishes--  HHH, MD

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54 months ago
Thank you for your quick and helpful response. One more question and I think I'll be good to go and put this behind me.  So not even after he stroked his penis and gets his shedding cells on his hands I could have gotten infected, correct? I've read about HPV being under the nails and It confuses me. I guess i'm just overthinking what I've read online and thinking the worst and think of all of the "if's" that could happen. I like to think if it was that easy to spread then we would see more people having it without having had intercourse. 

Thank you again Doctor. 


H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
54 months ago
Don't confuse detection of viral DNA with transmission risk. DNA tests for various bacteria and viruses, including HPV, are hyper-sensitive -- they detect extraordinarily tiny amounts of the stuff, but DNA doesn't necessarily mean infectious virus is present or, if present, is there in sufficient amount to allow transmission. Yes, HPV DNA can be detected on the fingers of people with genital HPV infection -- and my guess is it could be found sometimes on the nose, lips, navel, or anywhere else, if anyone cared to try to find it. More important than finding DNA on fingers is that busy gyn practices and STD clinics virtually never see persons with genital HPV who haven't had intercourse.

Thanks for the thanks. I'm glad to have helped.

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54 months ago
So in other words, I should not worry about HPV and move on from this situation. 

Thank you so much!!! 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
54 months ago
That's exactly my point! Glad you understand. Best wishes.

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