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Home Ask the Experts Ask the Experts Discussing HPV with a Partner

Discussing HPV with a Partner

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I’m a male who was diagnosed with genital warts a few years ago. They were removed after a couple of rounds of freezing and have not returned. I’m curious what I might need to say to a new partner, or if I really need to say anything at all.

Krishnan

Even though your warts have been treated and you are clear of them now, unfortunately, there’s no way to know for certain if you are able to transmit the virus now, which is without a doubt one of the most frustrating aspects of being diagnosed with the virus. The virus can lay dormant for years in the absence of warts, but the longer one goes without a recurrence, the risk may in fact be minimal.

Again, there’s just no way to tell! In such cases honesty is the best policy. Be upfront with your partner before sexual activity and let him/her know that you have been treated for genital warts and you are now clear. It is best to use condoms in all cases as studies have found consistent condom use to reduce the risk of transmission by up to 70%. In any conversation you may have with a new partner about HPV, here are some points to cover:

  • HPV is common, and most sexually active individuals probably have one or more HPV infections in their lifetimes.
  • The virus is most often not dangerous and, again, is usually resolved by the natural immune response.
  • The types of HPV associated with genital warts are almost always “low risk” types that aren’t linked with cancer. Most cases of “low risk” HPV never result in visible or easily detected symptoms.
  • Even with “high risk” types of the virus, cancer is a rare outcome (especially in women who have regular Pap tests).

Shobha Krishnan, MD

Dr. Krishnan is the author of the award winning book, The HPV Vaccine Controversy: Sex, Cancer, God and Politics- A Guide for Parents, Women, Men and Teenagers (Praeger 2008). Details of the book and her cervical cancer projects in India can be found on her website.