HPV = Cheating?
November 5, 2005 8:45 PM   Subscribe

I recently had an abnormal pap smear, which lead to a colposcopy and further testing. The tesing showed I had contracted HPV. The thing is, I've been only slept with one person and we've been together for over 3 years. Can this virus remain dormant this long, or is somehting else going on?

It was one of the "high risk" strains that are associated with cancer, not a strain that causes genital warts. I have been getting regular pap tests for years with no abnormalities before this, so it wasn't as if I had this virus for a while and simply didn't know because I wasn't being tested.

There was a brief period where the two of us broke up last year (maybe three months?) I did not do anything that would have cause me to contract HPV during that time. He claims that he did not have sex with anyone during that period either. I know he kissed other people, and that he didn't engage in oral sex, but I have no idea about the grey area in between. Anytime I have tried to find out more information, he gets very defensive, refuses to tell me and that it will just make me upset (which it probably would).

His last girlfriend beofre me was...erm...promiscuous, so it is possible that he contracted it form her and the virus remained dormant for years...but I can;t help feeling a bit suspicious. Should I trust him and assume he did not get this during the brief period thiat we broke up, or is it normal for this virus to remain dormant for years?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
Googling HPV incubation time reveals many links that suggest incubation time can be many years.

You should check out HPVfaq.com One of the most common questions:
If I got HPV well into a committed relationship, does it mean my partner has cheated on me?
. The answer: No.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:05 PM on November 5, 2005

Viruses lurk, sometimes for years. It won't do you any good at this point to try to find a scapegoat, and promiscuity is not required to get it, as *you* now know. This virus is a very, very common acquisition. The important thing is to have regular pap tests - if you do that, you should be fine. Try to substitute the anger with concern for your own well-being. Treat your body to regular check-ups, and forget finger-pointing!
posted by fish tick at 9:22 PM on November 5, 2005

According to my gynocologist, HPV is just a fact of sexually active life. Try not to get hung up on "omg I have an STD!" and just address the health issue you're having the way you'd address any other health issue.

It seems like the trust issues you're having with your boyfriend are a seperate thing entirely ("he claims he did not have sex" seems to imply that you don't believe that claim).

Just to reiterate about HPV: try not to stigmatize yourself. I have it. Most of my friends have it, and most of your friends have it too. If it's any reassurance, my doctor told me that many women eventually clear the virus from their bodies naturally.
posted by bonheur at 9:34 PM on November 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

Cervical symptoms of HPV are completely treatable. It sounds scary to have a "displasia" but a simple laser treatment will take care of it. It's painless and quick. So don't fret too much. Be thankful that you discovered it early. It can only lead to cancer if you ignore it.
posted by shifafa at 11:29 PM on November 5, 2005

I've got it too. I had a cryogenic procedure to remove the precancerous cells, and have regular followup paps every year. I've had two children since, with no complications.

The only time I ever think about it is when I'm on some message board or forum somewhere, and someone is freaking out because they've just been diagnosed with HPV. Then I remember "Oh--I've got that!"

My sister, who is in the Navy, told me that about 3 of 4 of the women in her boot camp class were diagnosed with dysplasia. That is in synch with the stats I've read more recently that 70% of people actually carry the HPV virus.

It's just not a big deal. Really.
posted by padraigin at 12:02 AM on November 6, 2005

It's reasonably likely that you got HPV from your boyfriend. Non-intercourse transmission can occur (re: previous partners you may have done things other than intercourse with). Some people claim that non-sexual transmission can occur, although that's up in the air and unlikely in any event.

It is completely possible that he had HPV before he was with you. This would not be inconsistent with the natural history of HPV. As bonheur's doctor said, HPV is just a part of having a sex life.

Of course, it's also possible that he's got HPV in the last 3 years. However nothing about HPV or the history of your infection makes that any more or less likely, so any continued suspicion would be a relationship issue.
posted by teem at 2:43 AM on November 6, 2005

either you broke up for three months or you didn't. if you did, it's none of your business what happened. drop the suspicion and get on with life. haven't you seen "friends", fer crissakes?
posted by andrew cooke at 3:45 AM on November 6, 2005

It's entirely possible he didn't cheat on you. The defensiveness and refusal to talk about it would sound strange to me if I were in the situation (thinking that, if I'm back together with someone, it's in our best interests to be honest and open and not refuse to discuss things.) It sounds like you're still worried about the 'grey areas' and wondering if this HPV supports your worst fears. Well, the only way to know is to find out the whole story from him. Assuming he's telling the truth, he contracted it before you were together and it's just now manifesting in you. I'd suggest either putting the worries to bed or hashing it out once and for all, and then putting the worries to bed.
posted by rebirtha at 8:42 AM on November 6, 2005

Read these lyrics, except imagine it says "HPV" instead of "AIDS". From the Team America soundtrack.


My father (AIDS!)
My sister (AIDS!)
My uncle and my cousin and her best friend (AIDS AIDS AIDS!)
The gays and the straights
And the white and the spades

Everyone has AIDS!
My grandma and my dog 'ol blue (AIDS AIDS AIDS)
The pope has got it and so do you (AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS)
C'mon everybody we got quilting to do (AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS)
We gotta break down these baricades, everyone has
AIDS! x 20


Now don't you feel a little better?
posted by cactus at 9:05 AM on November 6, 2005

HPV's not a big deal, I agree.

I also agree with andrew cooke that you do not need to know what happened during the breakup. But, you have every right to know your boyfriend's sexual status as far as it impacts your body. Unfortunately, people lie to their partners about their sexual history. (That's an article about a study done in 2001, but it should still be relevant.) It is not unreasonable to request one's partners to be tested (especially for HIV, but also for any STD) before initially having sex or at any time during a relationship. This isn't necessarily a lack of trust in them. Who knows if someone they trusted lied to them? And it sure sucks to find out by getting tested yourself.
posted by wendyfairy at 9:46 AM on November 6, 2005

Just to clarify, there is currenly no HPV test for men, and although one exists for women (you may have seen ads for this on TV) the last three doctors I've seen have refused to do it, explaining instead that because the vast majority of sexually active women carry the virus, testing for it accomplishes nothing and causes undue panic. The pap smear tests for changes in cervical cells that the cancer-causing strains of HPV cause.

There's so much stigma and fear surrounding STDs, I've definitely run into situations where a guy claims he can't possibly have HPV, because he got tested for "everything!" Unfortunately, HPV isn't included in the "everything" you get when you get tested, and a lot of people don't know that. I'll reiterate: if you've ever slept with someone who had ever slept with someone else before you, you have HPV. A lot of people hear the statistics (50-80% depending on the source) and immediately think "hoo-boy, most people have that HPV but not me!" but most of them are wrong.

If you're in a monogomous relationship (or using condoms every time with different partners) and getting regular pap smears and STD tests, then you're doing everything right. Maybe I should write a chant: "HPV is a fact of life!
HPV shouldn't cause you strive!" Okay, I'll stop before I have to rhyme anything with smear, you get the idea.
posted by bonheur at 11:03 AM on November 6, 2005

HPV can take from 6 months up to 2 years to manifest symptoms, so yes, it is entirely within the normal scheme of things that your/his HPV infections have remained latent for this long since 0.5-2 years is the typical range. Also, even the wart forming serotypes do not necessarily manifest visable lesions in males. As others said, unlike many of the other STDs, men also are not routinely screened for HPV simply because there isn't a quick and easy way of doing it (the virus infects and becomes resident in the skin or other mucosal tissues and does not migrate outward so you won't find virus particles, products, or DNA in the blood serum), there are not always visible signs of infection (unlike, say, herpes), and the risk of penile cancers is so much lower than for cervical cancers that pap smears are not performed on men.

When you factor these together, it becomes very possible that he was infected by his last girlfriend, did not know that he was, infected you at some point, and you just now are manifesting symptoms. Now I can't remember for certain (and I can't seem to find this in my survey of viruses book right now), but I believe HPV takes at least 3 weeks if not longer from the initial infection to be reinfectable (i. e. he would be unable to infect you unless he had been infected for 3 weeks) so it is possible that he contracted his infection while you two were broken up, but I would place my money on his having received the gift that keeps on giving from his last girlfriend since if she was promiscus as you say she definitely had HPV, among other things.

On the plus side, just because you have a high risk HPV does not mean anything will ever happen. More than likely, if you are healthy, your body will clear the virus or at least keep it knocked down so that nothing will come of this other than the sick feeling you are feeling in your stomach right now. You can also think of it this way: when it comes to viral STDs, you lucked out. This is pretty much the most harmless of the viral STD since other that the small cancer threat and warts, HPV doesn't do anything -- it isn't like any of the herpes viruses causing ulcers or hepatitis C destroying your liver or AIDS helping to kill you.
posted by The Bishop of Turkey at 10:17 PM on November 6, 2005

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