[Question #7723] HPV Transmission

23 days ago
I recently performed manual sex (handjob) on a partner that I later found out has genital warts. At the time of the counter, I did not touch my own genitals at all and remained clothed. I washed my hands after the sex encounter. Would it be possible for my hands to get infected with genital warts? Or would I be able to carry HPV on my hands from touching someone's genital warts and then transmit it to myself hours or days later?
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
22 days ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your confidence in our services.

This is no risk at all. HPV is rarely transmitted by hand-genital contact. In theory, immediate contact with your own penis -- i.e. within seconds, while your hands might still be wet with your partner's genital fluids -- might transfer HPV, e.g. if you masturbated yourself during this event. Otherwise for sure no risk. The genital HPV types do not establish infection on the hands, as far as known, so there is no chance of transmission to any other body area aside from the immediate, wet fluids situation.

Of course like all sexually active persons, you can expect to catch genital HPV, perhaps a few times. It happens to everybody -- if you have had 3 or more sex partners in your lifetime, you can assume you already have been infected and could well be carrying it now (and transmissible to your sex partners). Getting genital HPV is a normal, expected, pretty much unavoidable consequence of having sex. (At any point in time, 30% to 50% of people age 20-50 have active, detectable genital HPV.) It's so common that no prevention measures are recommended except vaccination against HPV, which prevents infection with the 9 HPV types that cause 90% of warts and 90% of cancers caused by HPV. Even consistent condom use isn't very helpful:  a condom reduces the chance of infection for any single exposure, but over time and multiple exposures, condom users catch HPV just as frequently as non-users (due to skin contact above the condom).

So my advice is to a) not worry at all about this event, b) get vaccinated against HPV, assuming you have not already done so, and c) don't lose any sleep over HPV!

I hope this information is helpful. Best wishes and stay safe.