Straight answers about HPV
May 16, 2009 6:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm a straight male, and I have genital wart-causing HPV. I have searched high and low and can't find straightforward answers to a few questions. I need some help!

1: In most people, the virus eventually clears. But since there is no test for men... apart from not warts disappearing, how will I know when the virus has cleared?

2: Please give me a simple list of sexual activities that I can safely partake in without spreading HPV. The only one that I have on my list so far is "looking longingly at each other through a window". I'm worried.

3: Any encouraging words that give me reason to believe that I might not have to be completely celibate for the next 10 years would be welcome.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

The first man I ever had sex with had wart-causing HPV. So, yes, straight girls, (maybe not all of us) will have sex with a man with HPV. We always used condoms, and never had sex while he had a wart. FWIW, I am HPV negative. (This is anecdotal and not medical advice. Someone with more sexual health information than I needs to chime in here.)

Communication is necessary! If had found out after we had been having sex, instead of beforehand, I would have been completely livid. Bring it up in a non-sexual situation, too.

Good luck. HPV is not the end of your world, I promise.
posted by mollymayhem at 6:44 PM on May 16, 2009

1. You won't necessarily know when it has cleared. For a large percentage of people, it clears within 1–3 years, but for some people it lingers in the body for years. I wouldn't wait for it to clear to have sex with an informed, consenting partner, especially if your partner's vaccinated (or willing to get vaccinated) against the virus.

2. Depending on where the warts are located (i.e. if they're not located in areas that can't be covered with a condom and/or that might rub against your partner), you can probably have with-condom sex with a partner, no problem. If they are in areas your partner might inadvertently come in contact with, you'll probably be just fine if your partner is vaccinated. Without-condom sex and blowjobs are something you and your partner should have a candid conversation about re: the risk level you're each comfortable with, since the vaccine doesn't protect against all strains of the virus (though it does protect against at least two of the most common cancer-causing strains, which greatly reduces the risk of cervical or throat cancer).

3. For most women, I don't think this is going to be a big deal, as long as you bring it up before anything sexual occurs. Just be candid and talk through your options. If a potential partner hasn't been vaccinated, a gentlemanly thing to do would be to offer to pay for the three-shot course of Gardasil—alternately, if her income level is low enough, she may be able to get it for free through Planned Parenthood. Anyway, definitely relax—there is no need to be celibate for the next 10 years. A huge percentage of the population has at one time or another had HPV, and it's really not a big deal.
posted by limeonaire at 7:15 PM on May 16, 2009

26.8% of women have HPV. 10.5% of women between 25 and 35 have wart-causing HPV. It's very widespread- there's a fair chance that your partner will have it too. Plus, most strains of wart-causing HPV are fairly benign, other than the annoyance of the warts themselves. It's not a serious health risk. Even if you do give it to your partner, my understanding is that it's often asymptomatic. As long as you use protection and abstain from sex when you're symtomatic, which may not ever happen again, you should be fine.
posted by emilyd22222 at 7:17 PM on May 16, 2009

a gentlemanly thing to do would be to offer to pay for the three-shot course of Gardasil

FYI- My insurance covered it 100%. It's very expensive if not covered, though.
posted by emilyd22222 at 7:21 PM on May 16, 2009

My friend was denied coverage for Gardasil because she is older than 26. Without coverage the cost would be $3000, so her doctor said not to bother as long as she gets her annual pap smears to check for anomalies.

So the vaccine might not be a viable option.
posted by jenmakes at 7:38 PM on May 16, 2009

Without coverage the cost would be $3000...

Tell me this is a typo and not a US-specific cost! Here in Ontario, I think it's around a few hundred dollars. Still pretty expensive, though!
posted by greatgefilte at 7:44 PM on May 16, 2009

Apologies for veering off topic, but this is important: Gardasil is expensive, but it is not on the order of $3000 for a full course. It costs $155 per injection (total of $465 for the full series of 3) here, and I've seen similar out-of-pocket, no-insurance prices elsewhere. The vaccine itself certainly does not cost $3000.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:46 PM on May 16, 2009

The cheaper prices certainly could be correct -- 3 grand was just what my friend's doc told her when he was telling her to forget about it.
posted by jenmakes at 8:06 PM on May 16, 2009

You might look over this CDC fact sheet on HPV and men.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:44 AM on May 17, 2009

My husband has HPV and has had warts since I met him. I didn't even know what they were until a few years into our intimate relationship (neither did he--he just always had them). He went to a dermatologist and had them removed. That's all you can do.

I have not had any warts to date and we have been together for 10 years. I have my gynecologist monitor this on my yearly pelvic exams and pap tests. There is a very simple test that can tell if you have warts: white vinegar swabbed on a wart will make it turn a different color than the rest of your skin. That's how they test me, that's how they test him, and if it's good enough for his dermatologist and my gynecologist, it's good enough for me.

As an aside, I will not take Gardasil. First, I'm too old (30). I am monitored yearly for cervical cancer via pap exams. That is also good enough for me. I am not yet convinced that the clinical evidence for the endemic nature of cervical cancer caused by HPV is actually accurate, as purported by the advertising for Gardasil. I am concerned with the side effects and adverse events associated with Gardasil. And, my husband has had his warts typed by a pathologist to see which strain of HPV he has, and it's not any of the strains that they think cause cervical cancer. And I am not one who is anti-vaccine. I truly believe in the power of immunization and think people who do not vaccinate for flu, measles and other highly contagious diseases are irresponsible. But there's just not enough justification for me to get this vaccine... yet. Maybe my opinion will change when it's been in use for several years and there is more evidence. But guidelines change; what was once thought to be good practice, especially in cancer screening and prevention, can change.

I am telling you all of this for a number of reasons. HPV is very prevalent and is probably the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection in the world. But it's typically not going to cause anything other than warts. Most strains do not cause cervical cancer. Be honest with your potential partner; let your partner know that you have HPV but you are seeing a dermatologist for treatment (or whatever the case may be). Use condoms. Urge your partner to be checked for HPV as well. That's all you can do. It's not a death sentence. It's just a bit of bad luck. But it can be managed. You just have to be proactive about it.
posted by FergieBelle at 6:57 AM on May 17, 2009

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