It says 'warning' in braille
July 14, 2005 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Someone I know was diagnosed with HPV.

That person is me. Not sure what to do next. I got some medicine. The little bumps will go away soon enough. But what do I do about me in relation to everyone else? How do I act? What do I say? The last girl I was with was nine months ago. Before that it was a year. I think this outbreak is from the girl I met a year ago, but maybe not. Do I start calling each girl I've been with in reverse order? And what would I even say then...('thanks, I mean sorry, I mean nevermind')? What do I do about current/future relationships? Not get involved? Break it off? or mess around until the very last minute and then say,'oh, by the way, I come with a free case of HPV, no purchase necessary, void where prohibited.' I'm also wondering how contagious this is going to be. Like when physical symptoms are present, I'm guessing yeah, contagious. But personal anecdotes I've read suggest, some of them, that the bumps come and go and that's it. But the medical stuff says the virus never leaves the body, and could strike at any time, (like that theif in the night...). So, from anyone who doesn't mind saying, what's been your experience? Somewhere on the scale between leprosy and a chest cold... Also, should I tell anyone, if they are not at risk of being infected by me? Meaning anyone I'm not about to have sex with, meaning most everyone. It seems like knowing this about someone else would be a burden or just gossip fodder. But maybe it's not such a big deal and I should be open about it. I don't have any precedents here.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
An awful lot of people have HPV, or have had it. It's not by any means the worst thing in the world, but it is more of problem for women than for men as several strains (out of a whole lot more) can cause cervical cancer in women. Every woman is responsible for her own body, and should be getting Pap smears, but you should probably reveal it to your sexual partners if you want to be responsible. You should also educate yourself, because despite the cervical cancer thing, HPV is actually less worrying than Herpes for several reasons, and more easily managed as well.

Good news: the good news is that many people are exposed to the virus and then clear it from their body. It used to be thought that once you contracted it, you had it for good, but actually it seems now that most infections are cleared by the body. A lot of people (~25% of the sexually active population) have been exposed to HPV. Outbreaks are very individual, some people get them very infrequently. The outbreaks don't cause open sores or anything, so that's good. There doesn't seem to be any increased risk of acquiring other STDs just because you have HPV.

Bad news: Some people don't clear the virus and have it for the duration. The really bad news is that viral shedding (the contagious part) occurs even when there is no outbreak. This means that if you harbor the virus you are pretty much always contagious, although not nearly as contagious when you're not having an outbreak. Condoms offer some protection, but not complete protection.

I think honesty is always the best watchword. I'm not sure I would share with non-sexual partners, though, as it's not really their business. IANAD, but I work in an STD clinic if you have any other questions. Email in profile, confidentiality guaranteed.
posted by OmieWise at 10:25 AM on July 14, 2005

Most recent (I think) AskMe thread on HPV, including a link to Dan Savage on the topic.
posted by caitlinb at 10:30 AM on July 14, 2005

Ah, but the Savage link is broken. Here's a good link to Dan's May 2005 response on this subject.
posted by caitlinb at 10:33 AM on July 14, 2005

You should phone everybody with whom you have had sex in reverse order. Don't stop if you hit another positive, because you may be the one that actually infected him or her. Plus, in the future tell anyone with whom you go beyond the flirting stage and before the kissing stage.

Better still, ask your doctor about the medical symptoms and for a recommendation for a counselor.
posted by mischief at 10:45 AM on July 14, 2005

Eh, I have HPV. It's really not that big a deal, if you are aware of it. Which means you have to tell your sexual partners. Their physicians should know that they may have been exposed, and they should know, so they can be even more vigilant with their pap smears.
posted by gaspode at 10:57 AM on July 14, 2005

I meant to say that your page title is awesome. With your sense of humor you'll come through just about anything fine.
posted by OmieWise at 2:49 PM on July 14, 2005

but it is more of problem for women than for men as several strains (out of a whole lot more) can cause cervical cancer in women. Every woman is responsible for her own body, and should be getting Pap smears, but you should probably reveal it to your sexual partners if you want to be responsible.

A doctor once told me that the strain that causes warts isn't the one that causes abnormal pap smears/cervical cancer. Is this correct? And if the guy has the non-warts-causing kind he wouldn't know, right? Cause in men that's asymptomatic?

I've also been told by a gyno that anyone who's had more than one sexual partner very likely has HPV -- maybe not the warts-causing strain -- because the various strains of the virus are so common. So, it sucks that you have it, but you shouldn't feel some stigma.

And I second (or third or fourth) the call for honesty because aside from it just being the right thing to do, if a partner finds out she has HPV and you didn't tell her you have it, that damage will be hard to undo.
posted by Airhen at 4:06 PM on July 14, 2005

Yes, Airhen. The types (HPV 6 and 11) that cause warts generally do not lead to cervical cancer / vulvular cancer / anal cancer.
posted by gramcracker at 7:17 PM on July 14, 2005

Types 13 and 16, however, do cause warts and cervical cancer and since (and I may be wrong on this) you do not get typed when the medical professional pronounces you positive, you don't know what type(s) you are infected with and thus know what your "gift" may cause.

There is good news on this front, though -- both Merck and GlaxoSmithkline have vaccines against the major cancer/wart producing types that have undergone successful human trials in Brazil (~90% efficacy, no side-effects) and should be on the market in the next couple of years. My google-fu is apparently weak tonight because this and this are the best I can come up with at the moment, even though I know there was a bunch out about this back in November/December.
posted by The Bishop of Turkey at 7:59 PM on July 14, 2005

Try this site. Someone I know has had good success with it.
posted by jbotz at 8:57 AM on July 15, 2005

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