≡ Menu

Your Turn: “How Should I Come Clean About My HPV?”

In a new feature I’m calling “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

I have been seeing my boyfriend for six months and things are going really great. Before I was with him, I had another relationship that lasted over two years, during which my ex cheated on me several times with multiple women. Unfortunately, I recently found out from a yearly pap smear that I have been diagnosed with HPV. My gynecologist told me that I have low grade lesions and that the virus should leave my body after a couple years with paps every six months. I was devastated by the news, and feel so dirty typing this now. I have always practiced safe sex and haven’t been with many men, so the only possible person I believe I could have received this from is my ex. I don’t want to be one of those people that has an STD and doesn’t say anything about it, but I just don’t know how to say it to my current boyfriend without him breaking up with me. How should I tell him? — Scared to Come Clean
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

{ 123 comments… add one }

avatar ArtsyGirl March 1, 2011, 3:15 pm

LW – I am so sorry to hear about this. I have a friend that had the same thing happen to her – though in her case it was her husband (claimed he must have picked it up from bedsheets I kid you not). Basically if you have been with your BF for 6 months he KNOWS you and would know your sexual history. I would honestly be more worried that he will want to hunt down your ex for putting you in danger, honestly while HPV is still an STI it is not herpes or AIDS. As for how to tell your partner I would sit him down at home and explain it. Explain how you feel and give him time to process. Do not tell him in public since it is such a personal issue and he might need to vent. Luckily, as I am sure you know, you can point out that 90% of HPV cases clear up within the first two years. Best of luck!

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 3:23 pm

In the case of your friend – though her husband obviously didn’t get it from bedsheet – either one of them could have been carrier and it could have not shown up in previous paps. HPV can be dormat for a looooong time. Doesn’t mean someone cheated in that instance.

avatar ArtsyGirly March 1, 2011, 5:44 pm

Yeah not so much – she was a virgin when she married him

avatar AnitaBath March 1, 2011, 5:53 pm

Just because she got it from him doesn’t mean he cheated though.

But anyone who comes up with some crazy excuse like they “got it from the bed sheets” is obviously trying to hide something.

avatar ArtsyGirly March 1, 2011, 6:50 pm

That is a very valid point.

avatar Maynard March 1, 2011, 6:04 pm

Exactly what AB said. Unless he was also a virgin, he could very well have had it and he never would have known.

avatar MissDre March 1, 2011, 3:16 pm

Hey Girl, I’ve been in the exact same situation with my current boyfriend but with chlamydia (which is easier to treat, I know). It’s absolutely terrifying to have to tell your boyfriend. The best thing you can do is tell him straight up, the way you did here. You don’t need to go into details about your sexual history, but let him know that you discovered this during a routine pap and you can say you believe you received it from your ex. Let him know that you’re taking action in regards to caring for your body, and you can let him know what steps he needs to take. Tell him how much you care about him and his health. You can be honest about feeling insecure and upset over the issue. And let him know that you’ll always be honest with him.

Give him a bit of time to absorb things. It will probably shock him and he’ll need time to get his thoughts together. It’s ok to ask him for reassurance after a bit of time has passed… I did! I told my bf I was feeling insecure because of this issue and that I needed him to tell me that things would be ok between us. Thankfully he did.

I wish you luck, and please don’t be hard on yourself! In no way does this make you a bad person. Keep your head up!

avatar theresa March 2, 2011, 1:27 am

=) Good advice!Honesty is the best policy.Girl maybe you can take this incident as a test for your relationship.If both of you can go through it together, it can definitely strengthen your relationship ;) Best of luck & keep your head held high!

with love!

avatar Pam March 1, 2011, 3:16 pm

Oh sweetie!!
I have to tell you that you are not alone, dear letter writer. I have just gone through HPV treatment — low grade lesions– that were caught through a pap test. I was devastated — I am a mother of 2, I had been super careful after I got divorced and only had unprotected sex one time, after both of us had been tested for the entire gamut of STDs… I was “clean”, he was “clean”… and still I contracted HPV. My doctor stated that I could have gotten it through sex with a condom, all it needed was skin to skin contact.
Be honest with your boyfriend about what is going on, and how it can affect him. HPV that doesn’t cause gential warts is very hard to detect in men, but he should be tested just to be sure. Get as much information from your gyno about the types of HPV and treatments, symptoms as you can so you can present this information to your boyfriend when you talk to him about it.
Unfortunately there is no way to guarentee that he won’t freak out about it, you just can’t know how someone will react until you get there. But know THIS: contracting this does NOT make you “dirty”… it can happen to anyone, i know women who have only had ONE (faithful) sexual partner who contracted a form of HPV. You are not a bad person and you have done nothing wrong, even if your boyfriend breaks up with you.
Keep your chin up, keep up with the treatment and paps, and kick this thing.

avatar Jess March 1, 2011, 3:54 pm

There might be away around this, but i’ve definitely read there is no test for HPV in men.

avatar AnitaBath March 1, 2011, 4:15 pm

You’re correct, there’s not.

avatar camille905 March 1, 2011, 3:19 pm

Actually even if you practice safe sex you can still get HPV through ANY genital contact or oral sex. There currently isn’t an effective test for men so it’s entirely possible that your current boyfriend gave it to you without knowing he had it. It’s estimated that up to 50% of sexually active adults have or will get HPV (I can’t remember where I saw that statistic, sorry). Take with your gynecologist and get all the facts (and maybe even a few statistics) before talking with your boyfriend. Possibly try telling a close friend first to help with a little moral support.

I contracted HPV several years ago (even though I was also practicing safe sex) and while it sucked, it was not the end of the world. If your boyfriend truly cares about you he will be understanding. Good luck!

avatar JennyTalia March 1, 2011, 3:48 pm

Actually I think the stat is up near 80%. Most people have/had it and don’t even know it.

Roxy_84 Roxy84 March 1, 2011, 3:51 pm

Yeah I thought I’d heard 80% too but wasn’t sure. Either way, VERY common

Roxy_84 Roxy84 March 1, 2011, 3:50 pm

I was just logging in to type all this. Somewhat repetitive but it may help to hear this a few times :) My friend got HPV from the first guy she was with even though he’d been tested before they started sleeping together and they ALWAYS used condoms. So you need to tell your guy even if you are practicing safe sex. But, it is super common (I think I’ve heard at least 50% as well) and very treatable so I would just be matter of fact and up front. It really isn’t the end of the world. He may need some time to process it, but if he is a good guy he will be understanding. Good luck!

avatar TheGirl March 2, 2011, 8:54 am

Oddly enough, they were talking about it on NBC national news last night. Its 50% have it, as camille905 said. I have no idea the percentage that will get it in their lifetime, but 80% would not be shocking.

avatar Beckaleigh March 1, 2011, 3:19 pm

Kudos to you for not asking whether you should tell him but how to tell him. You should be honest with him and don’t beat around the bush. Tell him exactly what you told Wendy. Maybe before you tell him you could do some research to find out the chances of giving the disease to your boyfriend, whether using condoms will prevent giving it to him, whether it will affect your health in any way. The better informed you are going in, the better the conversation will be!

And if your boyfriend can’t handle it, then maybe its better for you in the long run. If your boyfriend can’t stand by you through this, even knowing that in two years you could be HPV-free, maybe he’s not the guy for you.

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 3:20 pm

I’ll probably get flamed for this… but it’s just HPV, and you have a low grade strain. That’s nothing to be devestated about and nothing a remotely informed guy should break up with you over.

Tell your bf the truth – there are no outward physical symptoms of HPV, and you only know about it because it showed up on your yearly exam. You could have gotten it from your ex, or your current bf could have given it to you – there’s no way to tell. Nothing will happen to him if he does have HPV, and more likely than not nothing will happen to you, either. There aren’t currently any effective test for men, but if he’s worried about passing it to another woman if he’s a carrier, he should keep it wrapped up and encourage anyone he’s with to keep up with yearly paps (which they should be doing anyway)

Also, talk to your doctor to get more information and ask her how to explain having HPV pertains to your partner. I’ve read that at least 80% of sexually active people will have some strain of HPV in their life and most of them will never know it. Not devestating.

avatar WatersEdge March 1, 2011, 3:38 pm

Maybe I am flammable too! But I agree- outside of the stigma of having an STD, this is not actually a big deal health-wise. You’ll set the tone of the conversation, so make sure that you stay calm when you tell him.

And seriously, after 6 months of sleeping together, you are just as likely to have gotten it from your current boyfriend. I know it’s easy to think that people who sleep around a lot get STD’s and people who don’t do not. We all like to believe in a just world where people get what they deserve. But it’s simply not true. If your aunt has the herpes simplex virus on her mouth, dormant and invisible, she can kiss your cheek at a family party and spread it to you. You can then perform oral sex on your husband, and you have just introduced an STD into your relationship. So even though your boyfriend is a “nice person” and a “good guy” and your ex-boyfriend was “a cheater” and “promiscuous”, that doesn’t mean that your ex gave you HPV. Given the huge prevalence of HPV, how easy it is to transmit, and the fact that men have no symptoms, either man stands an equal chance of having given it to you.

I don’t think you should approach the convo with you as being the one to blame here. You’re in this together and you have no idea how it happened. So just be calm, open, and honest.

avatar AnitaBath March 1, 2011, 4:16 pm

Thank god, I was getting ready to say the exact same thing.

avatar Spark March 1, 2011, 7:27 pm

Why does she have to tell him at all? No one seems to have addressed the REASONS why he needs to be told. I honestly can’t think of one good reason, other than for moral support.

avatar AnitaBath March 1, 2011, 7:40 pm

Because it’s the responsible thing to let him know if he’s a carrier?

avatar Spark March 1, 2011, 8:19 pm

He should assume that he already is! Everyone should assume that EVERY potential partner carries it.

avatar AnitaBath March 1, 2011, 9:23 pm

In a perfect world everyone would assume, in an educated world, people would know for sure. And, I may be wrong about this, but certain strains are more likely to cause symptoms and problems than the more benign strains. If this author had a strain that made her have lesions, the guy would be more aware that he isn’t carrying the “common cold,” but something more on par with, say, strep throat.

EscapeHatches EscapeHatch March 4, 2011, 5:29 pm

There are strains which cause visible warts, and another set that cause changes in the cells of the cervix (everything from lesions to cancer). 50% of cervical changes clear up within a year, and 90% within two years.

There is no definitive test for men. There is a very, very small chance he could develop a condition as a result of exposure (penile cancer and anal cancer) but the conversion rates of viral exposure to cancer cases is incredibly low.

I am unfortunately in the ‘wait-and-see’ mode after an abnormal pap and read every scrap of literature I could find on it.

avatar WatersEdge March 2, 2011, 8:51 am

I think she should tell her current boyfriend. But I don’t think she has a moral responsibility to tell every future partner until they go off condoms. My logic is that we all take the HPV risk when we have sex, even with condoms. There’s no need to make herself a martyr. If people want to avoid STD’s then they need to abstain. I would approach the convo, with some statistics on hand, when she goes off condoms with any future partner.

EscapeHatches EscapeHatch March 4, 2011, 6:04 pm

HPV can be transmitted even with the use of condoms, genital contact is all that is needed. Plus, condoms can break – it’s a risk, albeit small risk, they bear. She does need to have that conversation when getting intimate – how would she have felt if he knew he had something and didn’t mention it?

avatar Lindsay March 2, 2011, 11:22 am

I sort of agree with you, but there were a few things that aren’t really accurate. Because her lesions are low-grade doesn’t mean the virus is low-grade. Low-grade is the first level of abnormalities that occur from a high-risk version of HPV. High-risk, meaning it can cause cancer. Often, low-grade lesions go away, but sometimes they progress. Obviously, they can be treated, but it doesn’t mean that they’re always going to be low-grade.

avatar EasyMark March 2, 2011, 12:41 pm

Yes, medically it isn’t *that* big of a deal, but really, when it happens to you, you do feel devastated and taken aback because there is basically nothing you can do about it. Plus, couple that with the stigma of having an STD, even one as common and easy to get as HPV, and you have someone who is seriously feeling lower than low.

Jess Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com March 1, 2011, 3:25 pm

HPV is very very common. The CDC estimates over 50% of the population is infected with it but only a small percentage, like yourself, will be unlucky enough for it to progress into lesions (or if left untreated for a long period, cancer). Some people associate HPV with genital warts which is one strain of HPV but not the most common.

HPV’s prevalence is the reason why the medical community is starting to give vaccines to women at a young age.

So while you should tell your partner and continue to have your health monitored, it is not something that you should feel any shame about. And if he is unaware of what HPV is, a quick google search will help him out.

avatar Jess March 1, 2011, 3:31 pm

He could get the vaccinne couldn’t he? I dont think his insurance would cover it, but I know he can get it if he asks for it. The doctor might even find a loophole to get insurance coverage for the visits and hopefully the shots.

That said, he probably won’t care. I know several of my friends who had HPV and got it taken care of. Some of them told guys, and then some of them didn’t. I know thats really terrible but its the reality. Their justification was that it was the kind that only affected girls anyway, the virus was probably already gone from their system, lots of people never catch the virus from someone else or show symptoms, etc. etc.

If it were me I would use condoms until he got the vaccinne if you just found out, and if has been 2 years or more since you talked to the doctor, I wouldn’t bother mentioning it.

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 3:34 pm

Is the HPV vaccine approved for men by the FDA?? Maybe I’m out of the loop, but I’m pretty sure it’s not.

avatar Jess March 1, 2011, 3:40 pm

Yea I used to work in HPV vaccinne research and men can definitely get the shots. It’s “off label” prescribing and doctors do it all the time for lots of medications. For example lamictal, a anti-seizure medication was really only approved for seizures and biopolar disorders, but doctors prescribed it for regular depression and migranes for years before it was approved by the FDA for that too.

However thats why the insurance probably won’t cover it. I know they won’t cover it if you’re a woman over 26.

avatar Jess March 1, 2011, 3:41 pm

also, bc all the clinical trials were done with woman, fda approval for gaurdacil will probably never happen. it doesn’t mean its not safe for them, but they weren’t included in the trials so technically they can’t be approved.

avatar Jess March 1, 2011, 3:44 pm

oh wow i’m totally wrong haha

at least according to the gardasil website, it is FDA approved for men:
http://www.gardasil.com/what-is-gardasil/information-on-gardasil/index.html#two

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 3:48 pm

Ahh, I was thinking it must have been along those lines (that it would be “off label”). Can’t imagine any guy wanting to pay for that, though, without insurance. Hell, as a woman I didn’t even get it until it was covered by my insurance because it cost a couple hundred dollars when it first came out.

avatar Spark March 1, 2011, 7:29 pm

Why is it terrible not to tell a partner? About HPV, I mean. It doesn’t seem like it’s a man’s business. See my post below!

And the vaccines are approved in men and boys ages 9 to 26.

avatar AnitaBath March 1, 2011, 7:45 pm

It’s not a man’s business? Sure, he may not be the one who’s getting cervical cancer, but he would still be a carrier and it could still affect any future partners. Why did anyone bother telling Typhoid Mary she was going around infecting people with typhoid?

avatar Maynard March 1, 2011, 9:10 pm

The thing is, AB, a guy won’t know. I don’t tell every guy I kiss “oh hey, wait, I might have a cold. I mean I don’t actually know if I have a cold, I dont have any symptoms of a cold, but I might. Just so you know”

At some point it just seems…. Silly

avatar AnitaBath March 1, 2011, 9:29 pm

I’m not even saying tell him for sure. I think it would be the nice thing to do, but to suggest it’s not “a man’s business” just seems silly to me.

Skyblossom Skyblossom March 2, 2011, 8:02 am

1. He has a right to know he’s been exposed to HPV.
2. HPV causes throat cancer in both men and women.
3. Men have worse cases of HPV orally.
4. HPV is now being linked to prostate cancer. It just takes alot longer to cause that type of cancer.
5. Men can carry HPV under their fingernails and are now developing rare froms of cancer on their fingertips due to HPV.

EscapeHatches EscapeHatch March 4, 2011, 6:06 pm

Exactly. It’s his health, too.

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 3:31 pm

AND. To be honest, I haven’t heard of having low grade LESIONS, just the low grade strain. Maybe someone can tell me I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure the LW is off in her terminology. There are hundreds of strains of HPV. Of the cancer-causing strands (which are different from the wart causing strands) there are low grade strands and higher grade strands.

I’m not really even sure what she means by “lesions,” because as far as I’m aware you have to have a high grade/risk strand of HPV to have the type of dysplasia (which may be what she meant?) that is serious enough that it needs to be removed

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 3:36 pm

Oh, one last thing for now, to the LW – if you haven’t gotten the vaccine for HPV it won’t hurt to get it now if it’s covered by your insurance. There are literally hundreds of strains of HPV and though you currently have the low grade strand (which honestly is pretty much the best-case scenario if you have HPV) you can still get any of the other strains later in life – the HPV vaccine protects against a number of the more harmful types of HPV

avatar camille905 March 1, 2011, 4:00 pm

Low grade lesions refer to non cancerous lesions. There are several grades, up to cancerous. I know because when I had HPV, I also had lesions but mine were only one step below cancerous (thankfully I had an awesome doctor who gave me all the right information to make an informed decision about my care and I’m fine now.)

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 4:08 pm

Gotcha. I’m thinking “lesions” and “dysplasia” are mostly interchangeable here and I was thrown off by its use….

avatar LB20 March 1, 2011, 3:34 pm

Also…. how do you know your current boyfriend didn’t give it to you? he might not know he even has it is (there isn’t a test for men).

avatar cdj0815 March 1, 2011, 4:14 pm

So does HPV become dormant in a man after a specific time since there is no test? How does he keep from passing it around?

avatar AnitaBath March 1, 2011, 4:19 pm

My gyno said they know relatively little about HPV in men. Basically, they just know that they’re carries. Practicing safe sex can reduce the chances of passing it along, but it’s pretty finicky.

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 4:19 pm

HPV is a virus – the bodies natural immune system will clear it over time in the vast majority of people (men and women) that catch it.

Roxy_84 Roxy84 March 1, 2011, 5:14 pm

I think it’s about 2 years

EscapeHatches EscapeHatch March 4, 2011, 6:08 pm

Even though the body ‘clears’ the infection sometimes the virus simply becomes dormant- means you could still be a carrier. A pap-smear with HPV test will only say you ‘have’ HPV if you’ve more than 5,000 viral basepairs.

avatar Catie8 March 1, 2011, 3:36 pm

Like Beckaleigh said, you are courageous for asking “how” and not “if” you should tell him! I think I would be afraid of starting the conversation more than anything. I have a feeling that once you get started telling him about it, the words will come. It sounds like you have written yourself a decent start in the letter above. Think about planning an occasion where he has the opportunity to get some fresh air without embarrassing either of you – a car ride probably isn’t the best, nor a place where you have to drive together. I would start with a “I need you to listen to everything I have to say before you respond,” then go from your letter. The skeezy ex is definitely something to identify as the cause, and I would couch your language in your concern for your BF’s health and the shock of visiting the doctor. Just remember: the longer you wait, the worse it will get (i.e. it’s no longer such a shock from the doctor that you had to share with him and more a secret you’re trying to keep).

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 3:44 pm

Oh come on. This is going to be as big of a deal as she makes it – she doesn’t have to tell him in a place where he’ll need to “get fresh air.” Everyone needs to get over the HPV stigma.

Really not trying to be rude here – but sounds like you could benefit from some HPV research. I say this in reference to suggesting the LW turning her concern to her bf’s health – unless she has a wart-causing strand of HPV (which she does not) then her boyfriend will have zero adverse health effects. So. She should have no concerns for his health in the first place. The only reason she should tell him is so that should he be with other women in the future, he can be aware that there is a chance he can pass it to them.

avatar Kerrycontrary March 1, 2011, 4:03 pm

thank you! i agree with some research on HPV she will know that its common. I’m sorry but this whole problem rings of naivety.

avatar Jess March 1, 2011, 3:36 pm

oh and if you’ve already been having sex wihtout protection just apologize, but really i highly highly doubt he will care!

Plus seriously is it really that bad? Its only so shamed because its sex related an American has crazy puritan values. Like people get warts on their hands or feet and get them removed and don’t totally freak out about how they are contaminated or dirty. The cancer causing strains are another story of course, but that’s why there is pab smears.

avatar Spark March 1, 2011, 7:30 pm

Why does she have to apologize? She probably got it from him! He should apologize to her as well.

Skyblossom Skyblossom March 1, 2011, 3:47 pm

I think you should ask the Dr. for the specific strain you have so that you can look it up and see if it is one of those that can lead to cancer. You and your boyfriend will both need to know this. Also, recent research has shown that men get much worse cases of HPV orally than women do and it can lead to throat cancer in both men and women. This is a virus that is easily spread even when you always use condoms because it can spread from thigh to thigh contact.

Some of the comments above give good advice on how to actually tell him about your infection. Then maybe you can research it together, know that you may both have it, and know that the infection can be prolonged when one of you clears it from your body and then recatches it from the other. You can pass it back and forth between you.

Definitely tell him immediately because that is important for his sense of trust. You can begin by saying you need to tell him something important. You just got the results of your pap from you doctor and …

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 3:54 pm

“the infection can be prolonged when one of you clears it from your body and then recatches it from the other.”

It’s a virus, so they don’t run the risk of catching the same strand again provided their body was able to fight it off in the first place. There are hundreds of strains of HPV, though, and she could get a different one at any time.

avatar camille905 March 1, 2011, 4:03 pm

@maynard-
Not true actually. A couple can pass it back and forth to each other.

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 4:11 pm

Guess our doctors told us different things then?

avatar MissDre March 1, 2011, 4:19 pm

It’s because viruses constantly mutate and form new strands.

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 4:25 pm

That’s what I said, though….? It’s similar to the flu. You will never get the SAME flu strand twice.

Skyblossom Skyblossom March 1, 2011, 4:31 pm

I added a link below to CDC information about transmission of the HPV virus including reinfection between partners. I guess I should have put it here but don’t want to add it twice.

Skyblossom Skyblossom March 1, 2011, 4:37 pm

It also had this statement which might support you.

For example, instances of apparent reinfection of sites may alternatively represent possible reactivation of latent infections.

So someone may appear to be reinfected when actually their virus appeared gone but really wasn’t.

EscapeHatches EscapeHatch March 4, 2011, 6:10 pm

My doctor indicated it’s near-to impossible to determine exactly which strain(s) you may have. The test they do is for the high-risk strains and is either a ‘yes you have one or more’ or ‘no, you don’t have a high-risk strain’

The genetic typing required would be prohibitively expensive.

jammy jessielou March 1, 2011, 3:51 pm

Just remember, having HPV is no reflection of you. If you have been careful to practice safe sex then you shouldn’t feel dirty. If this new guy loves you, he won’t run when you tell him.
Put yourself in his shoes, if he had something…you would want to know, right? But for your own safety, he should know so he can be aware.

MaterialsGirl Liz March 1, 2011, 3:55 pm

This same thing happened to me as well. I had been dating my boyfriend (monogamous) for 1 year when I went to the gyno again (it literally was one year later, we got the full testing when we started the relationship: all clear; one year later… whammoo!). I had high grade squamous cells. I was required to have a procedure called the LEEP which cut away a portion of my cervix (the infected part). Not the most pleasant, let me tell you. I came in for a check up every 6 months and after two years, was cleared to go back to a yearly. I was under a lot of stress at the time, so I could have gotten it before my boyfriend but it didn’t come out until then. Who knows; ya can’t really blame anyone. Good news is, I know that I no longer have it as it’s been 5 years since and everything is gtg. It is much easier for women to clear the virus then men.
If you need the LEEP procedure you will absolutely have to tell your boyfriend because there will be no ‘playtime’ for 6 weeks afterward. I agree that this (HPV) is so common it’s not the end of the world so educate yourself and your boyfriend and do not feel ashamed at all (love the idea of going to the doc with him). It honestly could have been your first but it wasn’t triggered until now. Or it could have been your current boyfriend. It happens to everyone, promiscuous or not, gay or straight. There is a lot of current research going on with with HPV right now and it’s being linked to all sorts of things: mouth cancer, anal ,blah blah blah. Just be glad that you’re getting it taken care of and don’t stress out so your body can get the opportunity to fight it! (and get the shot!!)

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 4:16 pm

So not to scare the LW, the odds of her having to go through the LEEP procedure if she has a low grade strand, are really, really slim.

MaterialsGirl Liz March 1, 2011, 4:20 pm

agreed. it’s only for high-grade. Glad that hers wasn’t fast-moving! Also on the LEEP (if it ever does come to that) it’s a very simple out-patient procedure. My ability to bear a child (hold it in anyway) wasn’t affected and it was a minor discomfort issue. Kudos to you, LW, for being up-to-date on your checkups.

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 4:34 pm

I had pretty much the same thing happen to me. A regular pap showed high-grade HPV, then everything that could have gone wrong did and thing progressed fast enough to surprise my doctor (because as I’m sure you know even with high-grade there’s a ‘wait and see’ factor) so I had the LEEP procedure as well. She actually wasn’t sure if the LEEP would get everything but since I haven’t had kids yet she wanted to do that before actual surgery. Luckily they got everything and I’m now down with my 6 months check ups and fine.

But yes, hopefully the LW knows that as far as having HPV goes, she really has close to nothing to worry about. Me and Liz up there are actually the odd balls as far as having it progress to that point and the vast majority won’t have to do anything except get a couple extra check ups… which is why I strongly encourage the LW and some commentors to take a chill pill ;)

MaterialsGirl Liz March 1, 2011, 4:37 pm

I’m agreeing with you! yeah mine was FAST. One year=high grade. thank goodness for a most excellent doc

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 4:43 pm

(ps i know you were agreeing with me sorry if it came off as I didn’t think you were! was trying to talk in generalities which was probably not smart since i was also replying to you!)

MaterialsGirl Liz March 1, 2011, 4:51 pm

haha, yeah I knew you were agreeing with me. I mean that as a “I’m agreeing wit chu” double affirmation. Although the written word cannot always convey vocal tones and inflections..

avatar Uyzie March 4, 2011, 7:08 pm

Can you even get the shot after the age of 26? I was already older than that before it came out, and when I asked my doctor, she said I shouldn’t get it. I’m 30 now…is that “too late” or something?

avatar Kerrycontrary March 1, 2011, 4:01 pm

I understand that it sucks to find out you have HPV, especially from a cheating ex. but 80-90 percent of the population has HPV at some point during their lives. Your body just hasn’t cleared itself of it yet. I would explain the information to your boyfriend, especially that its not harmful to him and he can’t be tested for it (truth, its a waste of money so doctors won’t do it because most tests come up positive). You and he both need to realize that you can get HPV from that skin to skin contact, it can be spread by foerplay and men can carry it underneath their fingernails (really!). After doing some research hopefully you and your boyfriend will both feel better about the situation by knowing that the only way to prevent this is 100 percent abstinence, so your predicament is totally normal for a sexually active adult.

avatar HmC March 1, 2011, 4:11 pm

About seven months ago my new partner told me (prior to us having sex) that his ex had HPV, and that he might pass it to me but he couldn’t confirm whether he’d ever contracted it because they don’t give the test to men. Crazy right, they won’t test them! I asked my gyn what to do and she told me that unless me and my new partner were virgins, we both probably already had it, and it would very likely not cause any adverse symptoms as long as I got regular paps. She was actually pleasantly shocked that my new partner had gone to the trouble to tell me about it- apparently with HPV many people don’t. I thought that was kind of sad actually, but it was a big point winner for my guy that he’d be so upfront prior to putting me in any kind of risk.

Anyway, not sure if this helps you “Scared to Come Clean”, but I guess my main point would be that being honest with your significant other is an absolutely vital part of maintaining a healthy intimate relationship. I personally think that with something as common (and generally harmless) as HPV, a quality significant other would appreciate the honesty and not view your circumstance as any negative mark against you.

Best of luck!

avatar AnitaBath March 1, 2011, 4:26 pm

That was awesome of your boyfriend! My boyfriend was relatively clueless about it all. It somehow came up that I was curious to know how many partners he had had (mainly for curiosities sake, which I told him, but I also kind of wanted to know what my chances of getting HPV from him were if he had had more than a few). He knew almost nothing about HPV, so I educated him, and told him at this point in the game with him (he was my second partner, he’s had a fair amount of sexual partners) it was fairly likely that I had HPV. Since he knew nothing about the disease, he thought I was overreacting since we had both been tested.

Fast forward a year when I have an abnormal pap. It was caused by a very, very low-risk strain, and it cleared itself up in less than a year. Because I had already explained what HPV was to my boyfriend, he knew more about it (and I didn’t have to say I told you so). He felt horrible, since chances were I had caught it from him.

Education really is important, and letting future partners know the risk themselves.

avatar Skybird March 1, 2011, 4:20 pm

Yes, absolutely, you MUST tell him. I contracted it 10 years after I was married (from my husband – who had been completely faithful during our marriage – he got it from someone he was “seeing” prior to our starting to date). Sometimes it just takes a LONG time to show any potential adverse affects. Thankfully, I am neurotic about getting my annual pap, and it showed up through that. I wound up having to get a cervical biopsy, and then having a LEEP performed to remove the pre-cancerous cells (definitely NOT the most pleasant procedure of my life). HPV can lead to cervical cancer, infertility, etc. so please keep seeing your gyn. With some people, it does just cycle out of their bodies, just not with everyone. The good news is that they are now also considering creating a vaccine for boys (like they did with the Gardasil for girls). So, I agree with many of the comments above. Be honest, tell him (be armed with specific information from your doctor, check it out online – there are different kinds), and good luck!

Skyblossom Skyblossom March 1, 2011, 4:27 pm

This is a CDC link about the transmission of HPV including reinfection between partners and self-infection from one site to another.

http://www.cdc.gov/eid/content/14/6/888.htm

avatar AnitaBath March 1, 2011, 4:32 pm

I can’t add much that people haven’t already said. I’m not downplaying what you’re going through at all, LW, since I felt equally ashamed and terrified when I was in your shoes, but it really isn’t that big of a deal. It sounds like you have a very low-risk strain, and the likelihood anything worse will come of it is slim. If I’m remembering the statistics my gyno told me, it’s that 80-90% of women will have some form of HPV in their lifetime, over 90% of it will clear up on it’s own, and if you’ve had sex with someone who wasn’t a virgin, the chances of you having it are 80%. In essence, a shit ton of women and men are carriers of HPV, and only some of them will have abnormal paps and have to deal with the stigma.

I agree with everyone else that it’s only as big of a deal as you make it out to be. I would educate yourself on it, so that you can educate him about it. Explain that it’s very common, that he is probably a carrier himself without knowing it, and that somewhere along the line you contracted it and were unfortunate enough to show symptoms.

This is not break-up worthy. If he has a problem with it, he is an ignorance-fueled douche bag, and I can not stress that enough. Unless he has practiced celibacy in the past, he has a very high risk of carrying some kind himself.

avatar AnitaBath March 1, 2011, 4:35 pm

Some personal advice, try not to talk about this with people who aren’t educated on the topic, as it will only make you feel worse. I made the mistake of talking to a friend of mine about it when I was going through it. This girl has had more partners than me, so statistically there is a VERY VERY high chance that she has it herself, I was just the one unlucky enough to show symptoms. When I explained it to her, she looked disgusted and just kind of treated me like a leper, like I was some kind of idiot who didn’t know to use a condom. The stigma is alive and well, and most people don’t know much about it.

MaterialsGirl Liz March 1, 2011, 4:39 pm

Oh that’s crappy!

avatar maynard March 1, 2011, 4:48 pm

AGREED on the uneducated people. Last summer I was sitting around with a bunch of girls that were mostly significant others of guy friends and somehow it came up that someone one of the girls knew *whisper* had HPV *shhh* as if this person was some gross slut. I went through my HPV stuff a couple years ago so at this point I like to give a little education if I can. I spoke up and let the girls know that I had it, and they they probably had it too (’cause not a one of them were virgins!), and it’s not something that needs to be whispered about or treated like it’s “dirty”

We were actually able to have a nice discussion that ended with reminding them all to not skip their yearly paps :)

MaterialsGirl Liz March 1, 2011, 4:35 pm

He could even be a virgin but have had oral or brushed up on a naked girl! Even if you’re a virgin at marriage, it’s best to get tested and get your yearlies!

avatar Spark March 1, 2011, 7:20 pm

You DO NOT NEED to tell your boyfriend. Unless you want his moral support, of course. I realize this sounds contrary to everything we know as right and wrong–and that’s because you are looking at in, dare I say, the wrong perspective.

The advice of most gynos and most experts on HPV? It is NOT something you need to share with your partner. I’ve researched this rather extensively. (Not scientifically, mind you–I’ve just done a lot of research on HPV via Google and my own health care providers.) The professional medical opinion is generally that HPV is usually harmless, more common than the common cold, and that everyone should assume that everyone else has it. Oh yeah, and the medical opinion is that in most cases, HPV is not a big deal! The pharmaceutical companies make it sound like it will kill you, but, in the words of my gyno, “HPV simply means you need a follow-up appointment, which is inconvenient. But that’s it. In most cases, it ends there.”

HPV is a women’s disease. And I mean this is more than one way. First, it affects women almost exclusively–sure, men catch it all the time, but in nearly all cases, they never know. Is that a reason not to tell your partner? Not a “reason,” per se, but a factor among many that bears considering. The second meaning of it being a women’s disease is that the social, financial, and emotional burden falls almost exclusively on women. So does the stigma. You even said that you feel dirty having it; there’s definitely a stigma. Nature excludes men from this stigma–he may very well have/ have had HPV, but he has NO burden to tell you or “feel dirty.” Simply because he doesn’t know.

And what effect will it have on him? In all likelihood, absolutely none. Ask yourself what are your reasons for telling him? So that he can protect himself from it? But it won’t hurt him. And odds are that he already has it. There is no way to protect him from it or test him for it. He probably already has it.

So why tell him? Because you feel like you should, morally? Did any guy ever have to tell you that he had it? But again, the morality of it comes from protecting the other person. Do you need to tell your boyfriend that you have depression? What about a digestive disorder? What about a learning disability? The moral burden isn’t the same. Sure, those aren’t contagious, but you see my reasoning.

That fact is, 80% or more of sexually active adults with contract HPV in their lifetime. In only a small portion of them (and only women), HPV will have significant consequences. Most people clear the infection without ever even knowing about it.

If you tell you’re boyfriend, you’re basically telling him, “Look, I have a virus that is more common than the common cold. You probably have it too. But I’m the bad guy here, cause I KNOW I have it. You owe me nothing about telling me whether you’ve had it, simply cause you’re a man. Yet it affects me! You are excused from this stigma simply because you are a man. I alone bear this burden. Not to mention that there’s a good chance that I got it from you. There’s a good chance that I didn’t–we’ll never know. But the point is, if you’ve had sex with a non-virgin, scientific odds are that you have been exposed to it. You have no idea whether you have it, and it won’t affect you if you do. But I have it. And you’re probably going to think I was a little slutty to end up with it. Heck, even I’m ashamed!”

Why does he need to know? HPV isn’t herpes or even chlamydia. It’s an annoying virus that everyone’s got but only women have to suffer from: emotionally, physically, financially, and socially.

Tell him if you need his support. But don’t tell him, and open yourself up to shame and criticism, for the wrong reasons. It is not your burden to protect him from the virtually-harmless.

avatar thyme March 1, 2011, 8:19 pm

I couldn’t disagree with you more. My boyfriend didn’t know that he had HPV, and he gave it to me. I’m fine, I don’t have the kind that can cause cancer, but I did have to go through a pretty damn painful cerivcal biopsy that I would have rather avoided. If my boyfriend had known that he had it, then he could have told me, and I could have avoided getting it from him.

This seems pretty obvious to me. It DOES affect the guy, inasmuch as he could pass it to someone he cares about.

avatar Maynard March 1, 2011, 9:00 pm

As has been said, unless you were a virgin, and he was not, you cannot say for certain that your bf gave you HPV- even if you were tested prior to being with him and never had unprotected sex. There is simply NO WAY to know, unless you were a virgin.

But if, somehow, he knew he had HPV (which by the way, just because a girl he had sex with in the past had HPV doesn’t mean that he has it, similarly, he could have had it and not known since there is no approved test for men. He could NOT have told you with certainty if he had it), would you have broken up with him/ not had sex with him EVER/AT ALL?? Be honest with yourself – what would you have done differently if he had said “I might have HPV” (which is what ever other single non-virgin can say to you, FYI)? If you have a way to avoid getting HPV other than absence, please let the rest of us know because we’re all missing something.

And I had that biopsy and more. It wasn’t THAT bad.

avatar AnitaBath March 1, 2011, 9:35 pm

I don’t think it’s fair to downplay someone’s biopsy, and tell them it wasn’t THAT bad. Some people’s cervixes are WAY more sensitive than others, and everyone deals with pain differently (especially when someone’s digging around up there).

avatar Maynard March 1, 2011, 10:47 pm

Yeah you’re probably right. After 3 of those biopsies and 1 LEEP outpatient I’m not all that sensitive to people talking about the pain aspect. You’d think it’s be the other way around, but I’m not very nice.

avatar Maynard March 1, 2011, 10:50 pm

Oh and compared to getting a hysterectomy, the biopsy truly isn’t that bad.

avatar AnitaBath March 1, 2011, 10:52 pm

I may be talking from the other end of the spectrum and wasn’t necessarily talking about all the procedures, but I just mean that sensitivity varies a lot. I got an IUD a couple months ago, and my gyno was preparing me for the worst because she said a lot of girls my age are in excruciating pain and it can be pretty bad, but it didn’t bother me at all. She started to have my cough every time she gave me a shot in my cervix, but after the first time I told her I didn’t feel anything, she didn’t bother. She actually acted like I was some freak of nature.

So, just from one desensitized cervix to another…

Dear Wendy Wendy March 2, 2011, 8:14 am

I had three or four biopsies and my doctor wasn’t even going to prescribe a pain medication until I begged for one. My point being, it isn’t though to be a very painful procedure. I’m a big baby with a low pain threshold, so I always like to have mega painkillers for things like that, but my doctor, while kind about it, thought I was being a little ridiculous.

Luckily, I never had the LEEP or anything else like that. It was recommended for me, but I asked for “six more months to get things under control” and I went to yoga religiously, started jogging five days a week, ate really well and cut as much stress out of my life as possible. Six months later, the HPV was gone.

avatar LSS86 March 3, 2011, 7:26 pm

Yea, probably not fair to downplay other people’s medical procedures, but I had that biopsy done too and it was so painless.

I agree 100% with spark and maynard. If someone isn’t a virgin, you can assume they have HPV. Tell your boyfriend if you want, but whenever I’ve told boyfriends about it, I have made it very clear just how common it is and they probably already have it anyway.

avatar Lindsay March 2, 2011, 11:27 am

Talking about the biopsy…I didn’t have any pain whatsoever, but I had to go to the ER because I couldn’t stop bleeding. I think that happens about 2 percent of the time, but it was pretty scary and ran up a big hospital bill (at least I have insurance).

avatar Spark March 1, 2011, 8:22 pm

My boyfriend doesn’t know if he has it. I’ve been having sex with him for a year, starting right after I had my last pap (which was negative, as it has always been). From the moment we started having sex, I’ve assumed that he is a carrier. I’m due for next pap this month, and I know that I may have HPV–simply because my boyfriend may or may not have it. The choice to have sex is the choice to expose YOURSELF to HPV.

avatar Spark March 1, 2011, 8:27 pm

You say, “If my boyfriend had known that he had it, then he could have told me, and I could have avoided getting it from him.” How? By not having sex with him? That’s the only way, really. And what about your next partner? Same thing?

My point is that women shouldn’t rely on their boyfriends to tell them of the HPV risk. Boyfriends will not truly know. Each woman should assume that each man she has sex with has HPV, and she should proceed accordingly.

avatar Maynard March 1, 2011, 8:51 pm

I actually agree with you. I don’t think she has to tell him; I was only giving advice based on the fact that she WANTS to tell him.

But you’re right, what is he really going to do? Never have sex with another woman?In the very best case he can suggest to future partners they continue to get regular paps but seriously? That falls on the woman to take responsibility for your own health.

I personally had pretty much the worst case scenario HPV you can get (but caught early because I went to my regular paps so my insides weren’t removed!) and I 1- do not blame any guy I’ve ever had sex with for not telling me he could possibly have HPV, 2- wouldn’t expect anyone to ever tell me they had/have HPV 3- even though I had bad luck I still realize my situation is the exception to the norm and wouldn’t make any of my friends feel bad for not telling a guy.

avatar Jess March 2, 2011, 3:37 am

I agree with this post. I wouldn’t tell my boyfriend actually

avatar WatersEdge March 2, 2011, 9:03 am

I agree. As I just stated above, we all take the risk of HPV when we have sex with anyone. Or even dry hump with undies on. There’s no need to make herself a martyr walking around acting like a leper, telling every potential partner that she has it. It falls back to the stigma that only dirty sluts get STD’s, when really, most of the population has HPV. It’s ridiculously prevalent, it’s harmless to men, and her particular strain won’t even lead to cancer, so the health of other women is not at stake. There is seriously no good reason to tell him. If she wants to, then sure. If it were me I wouldn’t tell any partner until we went off condoms.

avatar Lindsay March 2, 2011, 11:28 am

But you can get it when using condoms, so if you’re not going to tell someone before going off condoms, you might as well not tell them at all. Because they’ve likely already gotten it. I got it, and I’d never NOT used a condom.

avatar Anastasiachs March 1, 2011, 7:25 pm

And the number of people who have said “Oh yeah, happened to me” or “Oh yeah, happened to my friend” tells you just how common it is.

And I agree everyone who has said just to tell him it showed up in your yearly PAP, and that the doctor is going to keep an eye on it. Honestly, if you aren’t having outbreaks from it, and it’s not one of the 4 (don’t quote me on that, it might be 2, or six, but it’s an even number and not greater than 6 ) strains that can cause cancer, you’re fine, it’s like the common cold, but less noticeable.

And annoying as it is, make sure you do get those semi-annual PAPs.

avatar AnitaBath March 1, 2011, 7:42 pm

It’s more than four, but there are two strains that cause the vast majority of cervical cancer. If I remember correctly, my gyno said the vaccine protects against the two that cause most cases of cervical cancer, and the two that are most responsible for genital warts.

avatar AnitaBath March 1, 2011, 9:40 pm

Wendy, do you still give advice on these? It might be something to think about, like a day or two after you post it, do an update where you give your take on it all. Some people consider your advice the be-all-end-all, and they’d probably still really like your input, especially if they’re writing in.

avatar _jsw_ March 1, 2011, 10:36 pm

I agree it’d be nice to hear her take on it, but, honestly, I think there’s no bad answer here. Telling the boyfriend has a number of plusses, including the relief of not carrying that burden of secret knowledge and the ability to discuss a common issue that few people are well-informed about. Not telling him doesn’t really cause much damage and might have the plus of avoiding a painful discussion that won’t actually change anything.

In the end, if she has it, it’s likely (but not guaranteed) that he has it, and there’s no effective way to prevent transmission besides avoiding all sexual contact. If they break up, there’s no real way to prevent spreading it to others, no real way to know if it’s dormant in others, no definitive way to be sure it won’t spread (or will spread), and so on. The knowledge is good to have, but ultimately useless to him, and any informed sexual partner is already going to know that she likely has some variant (or many variants) of it already.

So, at least the way I see it, there’s no ethical mandate either way. There’s no reason to feel guilt either way. Either choice – to tell or not – is defensible. We all have our preferences, but as far as the LW is concerned, I don’t think there’s a compelling need either way, and she should do what, in her gut, she feels she should do. He’ll be fine either way. What matters is how she will feel.

Dear Wendy Wendy March 2, 2011, 8:07 am

Sometimes I do, but in this case I did not. I felt like this particular LW was lacking information and a variety of perspectives and that’s exactly what she got from you all. If she’s reading this and really wants *my* perspective it’s this: HPV is so not a big deal. I’ve had it, and so have about 80% of the people we all know. It can certainly lead to devastating outcomes if it isn’t properly monitored, but as long as a woman is diligent about getting her pap smears and taking care of business, so to speak, there’s no reason to freak out or to feel “dirty” about it. As someone else said, it’s probably wise to assume that everyone you have sex with has it, because odds are they do, and since it’s spread skin-to-skin, there’s nothing you can do to prevent it except not be intimate with other people ever. Even abstaining from sex won’t totally prevent it if you’re still being intimate with a person who’s got it.

Personally, I’ve never been someone to sleep around. I’ve had very few sex partners, but the ones I have had, I didn’t feel an overt need to share my HPV status with them. I was with a longterm boyfriend when I discovered I had it, and I told him, but only because I needed moral support. I still had it when we broke up a year later and I told the next guy I was with, but because he was a doctor and I figured he’s have some good advice for me. By the time I met my now-husband, the HPV was out of my system and I don’t think it ever even came up in conversation until we were serious and already sleeping together. I assume he’s a carrier, since, literally, most adults who are sexually active are, but I go in for my yearly paps and everything has been clear and fine for five or six years in a row now.

There really isn’t a right answer here. There’s no reason to feel guilty if you don’t feel like sharing the information. The information is pretty useless. Unless someone chooses never to be intimate with another person ever again, there’s no way to 100% prevent getting or spreading HPV. Do you really think you’re going to tell your partner you’ve got it and then, after he’s already slept with you and likely picked it up, he’s going to never ever be intimate with anyone ever again? It’s just so unrealistic. So, tell if it will make you feel better to get it off your chest, but don’t feel like you’ve got some moral obligation. And don’t feel like you’re some kind of modern day leper when all you’ve got in some virus that pretty much everyone else you know has, whether they’re aware they’ve got it or not.

avatar blackbird March 2, 2011, 3:35 am

I have to say that I think honesty is usually the best policy – especially if the LW wants this to be a longtime thing. If she ends up having to get some kind of outpatient procedure in the next few months/years for her HPV, what is she going to tell her boyfriend? Being able to talk and be open about this is probably going to strengthen the relationship (if he’s worth it) than destroy it.

What I’ve been thinking has already been said multiple times, so I’m just going to post a link to this article I read a few days ago about BOYS BEING AFFECTED BY HPV.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1358845/Oral-sex-bigger-cause-throat-cancer-tobacco.html

avatar XanderTaylor March 2, 2011, 12:26 pm

I contracted HPV in year 18 of a 20 year marraige. I had never been unfaithful…..Hmmm wonder how I got it? When I told my husband about it he accused me of having sex outside of our marraige. That conversation lasted about 30 seconds as we both knew it wasn’t true. Anyone can get HPV at any time, not know it & spread it. This is nothing to be ashamed of! I would probably discuss it with your boyfriend for informational purposes – I had a lot of procedures & pain/flareups associated with mine and it lasted 3 years, sorry to say it was nightmare – but, that is the only reason I would discuss it – not in any effort to spare him because it is already too late. I would 1st off tell him about your pap test & the results & give him brochures or other written material so he can get accurate info from a separate source. That way it’s not just you giving him info, but another objective source as well.

avatar LSS86 March 3, 2011, 7:32 pm

That’s a good point about being informative. Probably the best reason to tell your partner about it is so when you go in for a colposcopy you don’t have to lie to him about where you’re going.

avatar IdaTarbell March 2, 2011, 1:27 pm

HPV is a virus which, like the common cold, can go away on it’s own. It doesn’t always, like in cancerous cases, but it can and usually does. Often, when you go to a gyno for a follow up a year later, your HPV is cleared and you’re fine. Many people never realize they have or had HPV unless it manifests in lesions, warts or cancer.

HOWEVER, please note that this isn’t just a problem for women. HPV can cause cancer, but not just cervical cancer. HPV can cause cancer of the mouth, the throat and the anus in both men and women. Any body part that comes in contact with sexual activity can contract HPV and get cancer.

Also, condoms do not protect completely against HPV. The virus can be contracted through skin-on-skin contact.

avatar LSS86 March 3, 2011, 7:34 pm

A while back my dentist started doing oral cancer screenings and they recommended them for people with HPV. So I asked my hygienist about it and she said “oh, you’re not in the demographic that needs to get tested for it.” To which I replied, “but I have HPV… along with everyone else in the world.” My hygienist turned out to be totally uninformed about HPV! She had no idea that it was so common.

avatar Cassie March 2, 2011, 1:34 pm

As many of the other people have pointed out in these comments, 80% of sexually active people will contract HPV at some point in their life. Of those that contract a high risk strain, over 80% will clear it within two years. The younger you are when infected the greater your chance of clearing it. If you read the scientific literature (which I do because I’m a biologist and nerd and have had HPV in the past) you’ll find that through your diet, you can greatly reduce the chances of having your infection progress. Women with the highest levels of certain vitamins (A,C and E I believe) in their blood are the most likely to have good outcomes. Women who don’t eat their fruits and vegetables are WAY more likely for their infection to progress into cancer or high grade dysplasia.
When I first found that I had a high risk strain of HPV, I didn’t realize that there was anything I could do about it. About a year and a half later, when the infection was still persisting as mildly inflamed lesions (not dyplasia), I started doing some reading on the matter. I started eating tons of fruits and veggies, almost completely stopped drinking alcohol, made sure I slept enough and avoided exposing myself to smoke. I then had the first normal pap in 2 years! I’m really hopeful that it stays this way and that I’ve truly kicked these virus’ butt.
I encourage ALL of you to try hard to eat well. Not only will it reduce your chances of getting HPV and associated complications, but of course there are tons of other health benefits that all of you know :)
Oh yeah, and as far as men’s health goes, HPV does increase the risk of head and neck cancers. However, so does having mono, drinking hot beverages (for real!), smoking, chewing tobacco, and drinking alcohol.

avatar HmC March 2, 2011, 2:44 pm

I totally agree with the above sentiments that HPV is not a reason to feel dirty, ashamed, or even seriously concerned. I just think- what’s the harm in being honest with the person you are in an intimate relationship with? Regardless of the fact that there really isn’t much he can practically do with the information, it’s clearly something that is bothering the LW and I think it’d be a huge relief to share it. If he’s a good guy and it’s a good connection, he’ll realize he’s in no real danger and can provide support. If he’s not a good guy, then he’ll be disgusted and judgmental at which point she can promptly dump him on his ass. :)

avatar Sonia Aurora March 2, 2011, 4:23 pm

I had HPV too, and the thing is that it can live in your system for a long time, so determining who gave it to you is tough…I also was afraid to tell my boyfriend, for fear he was gonna think I cheated (we’re long distance) but I did a ton of research about it and when I spoke to him I told him and gave him some of the facts too. He was extremely sweet about it and just wanted to be sure I was going to be ok. Have faith in your boyfriend that he is going to trust you and the information you give him.

avatar LSS86 March 2, 2011, 8:34 pm

I haven’t read everyone else’s responses, but here are my two cents (as someone who has HPV and has had low-grade dysplasia for nearly 3 years now).

When I first got a call from my doctor telling me I had HPV, I freaked out. She told me not to worry too much about it, but she didn’t explain to me why I shouldn’t worry. I spent several hours researching HPV online and found out the following things:

1) It’s estimated that 80% of sexually active people have at least one strain of HPV.
2) There are two types of HPV: one that causes warts and one that can cause cervical cancer.
3) If you have the type that can cause cervical cancer, that does not mean you will get cervical cancer, or even that you will ever have an abnormal pap.
4) If you do have an abnormal pap, your body will most likely fight off the infection in 2-3 years.
5) If your body succeeds in fighting off the infection, your body will most likely be immune to that strain from there on out (though you might have another strain that could cause another infection). The same goes for the types that cause warts too, by the way.
6) If your body doesn’t succeed in fighting off the infection, it will take about 10 years for it to develop into cervical cancer. That gives you plenty of time to be treated before it becomes cervical cancer.
7) There are no known complications for men, nor is there a test.

HPV isn’t a good thing, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not that big a deal as long as you continue to see your gynecologist regularly. Convince yourself of the previous sentence and memorize all the facts before you talk to your boyfriend. He might be uninformed about HPV, so it’s your job to see that he understands what it means.

avatar Laura July 10, 2012, 2:55 am

yes, she has to tell him IF he has performed oral sex on her; because that exposes him to oral cancer, which can be really serious. He deserves to know. You wrote “There are no known complications for men,” which is patently untrue. Men do get throat/mouth/tongue cancers, and they are brutal. It killed Michael Chrichton. Boys need to get the vaccine. The risk of oral cancers is greater even than for smokers, shudder.

avatar CB March 2, 2011, 11:41 pm

I am currently going through an HPV situation. I originally discovered 3 years ago that I had an HPV strand which causes genital warts. I most definitely got it from my then partner (he was only my second and my first was a virgin). We were together for 2 years following and eventually separated.

I only had one bout of symptoms from it, used a cream, and never experienced anything else for 3 years. I met a guy 6 months ago and told him that I had HPV in the past, but not specifically the type that causes genital warts because of two reasons – the stigma associated with that specific strand and after 3 years symptom free I assumed it had passed. I understand that there is no way of actually knowing for certain.

About a month ago, I developed symptoms again and came clean with my boyfriend that the HPV I was initially referring to caused genital warts. I was uncertain if this was something new or my original infection. Anyway, he was none too pleased that I wasn’t specific to begin with and broke up with me. I will say that I believe in being honest and upfront. I think you should let your boyfriend know. Don’t make a huge deal of it because it’s not that huge.

While this may not totally relate – just wanted to hear some feedback as I’ve been having a difficult time.

avatar _jsw_ March 3, 2011, 9:42 am

@CB: I don’t think you did anything wrong, and I think he reacted poorly. Yes, it is possible that your infection from three years ago resurfaced. It happens and it’s not uncommon… but, on the other hand, if you have symptoms and then, for several years, see none with a virus that has a tendency to clear itself out in that time in most people, it’s also very reasonable to assume it’s gone. I admire that you told him anything at all originally after such a long time period, and the fact is that, in six months, you very well could have become reinfected from him with the same or a similar strain. Breaking up with you over that – over you having a virus that is very common and that he very well might have reinfected you with – is a very immature reaction. The best thing I can say in his defense is that he might have been uneducated about the virus, but that’s something five minutes and an Internet connection can fix.

I’m sorry that was the excuse he gave to break up with you, but it was, I think, not a cloud with a silver lining (the lining being you realizing he was so shallow) but instead a big hunk of silver that looked a little cloudy. You have a very, very common virus. You did not have to do anything irresponsible to get it. It won’t likely have any health effect on any man you’re ever with. It potentially can lead to some complications but most likely won’t for you. It is like someone dumping you because you have a cold sore.

avatar CB March 3, 2011, 8:24 pm

Thanks. I have been feeling both guilty and responsible for the end of the relationship in addition to dealing with hpv again. I had honestly gotten to a point where after 3 years I assumed it had cleared. I just don’t want to regret not being more specific in saying genital warts to begin with.

I also don’t know how to go about telling partners in the future. Should I be specific about genital warts? I’m thinking that would be best.

avatar AnitaBath March 3, 2011, 9:06 pm

I think that strand has such a stigma because something actually shows up with it. People give genital warts the same disgust they give herpes, and it’s just not the same. I think the genital warts thing is even way more common than you think it is. I remember when I was 14 and at the doctor, and she was talking about how it would be a good idea to get Gardisal. She was talking about HPV and what it does, and she said it was the cause of genital warts. Later my mom confessed she had no clue, and she said both she and her best friend had had them when they were teenagers (she was a teenager in the seventies – you can draw your own conclusions), and they just didn’t think anything of it because they had never been a problem since and she thought they were so common.

I think you were right in telling him, just because it seems like the lies would have been messy if you had tried to hide it (and I’m talking after it surfaced, you’d get tangled pretty fast if you kept having to explain why you couldn’t be intimate or “where that bump came from”). I think, in the future, it’s ultimately up to you to decide if you are or aren’t specific with partners. There is a stigma, and there’s a chance they won’t understand. Maybe consider telling them upfront you’ve had HPV, educate them on it, and in the course of education explain that HPV is also responsible for genital warts. After you explain all that, if they ask if you’d had them, I guess it’s up to you what you tell them. It’s definitely a tricky situation.

But I agree with jsw, that the guy was an ignorance-fueled douchebag.

avatar CB March 4, 2011, 9:53 am

I agree with you and appreciate your comments. My mom actually told me that when she was around 20 she experienced a bump or two that hung around a while and eventually left. She didn’t think anything of it until my experience. I would probably just be upfront about it in the future. If I had never experienced this and my partner directed me toward factual information, I’d remain with them. Not a biggie. However, in this moment it can feel overwhelming.

I think my ex’s rationalization for ending it was that I lied about specifics. He said he couldn’t trust me anymore. He also had many trust issues in general. But, I don’t see how the two issues are related. Sorry, I’m rambling now

avatar jamie December 24, 2012, 1:21 am

I told my boyfriend I was diagnosed with hpv and he dumped me and I haven’t heard from him since. We dated only a few months but they were really good months and I can’t believe that he wouldn’t talk to me about it or anything. He just stopped talking to me for hours on end so I left his house and haven’t heard from him in over 3 weeks and my stuff is still over at his house and his profile is back on dating sites. Makes me so mad. I wish I would have never told him and I probably won’t ever tell anybody ever again.

avatar 1337 October 5, 2013, 10:47 pm

I’m writing this for anyone who is reading this article.

I think its funny that the people who say ‘its no big deal’ are the same people advising that the girl not tell her boyfriend’. If it’s ‘not a big deal’, then why shouldn’t she tell him? HPV itself may not be a big deal. Not telling someone you are in a serious relationship with about something that could affect you or him in the future is. If you don’t tell him now, when will you tell him? In one year? Right before you get engaged? Right before you get married? When you get cervical cancer? When he gets oral cancer? What happens if you have sex, break up, and he never finds out. You may be responsible for infecting other girls with a disease that could kill them. If your relationship isn’t in a place where you feel you can tell him…then wait, but just know that it will be harder to tell him later, and it will be harder for him to deal with later too.

I am a man. I would want to be told. I would want to be there for the woman that was just diagnosed with something and was scared and alone. However, If I was not told and found out later, I would be thankful that she had the stones to tell me, but it would also introduce some serious relationship stress. In summary, I understand why you might not want to tell him. But if you see anything long term in your relationship, it will come out eventually, and the longer you wait, the harder it will be. If this is just a fling, then you owe it to his other partners in the future to tell him. There’s not really a good time to tell a partner that you have HPV, and it’s one of those indicators that we live in a broken world.

Leave a Comment


nine + 5 =