The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. It is also the most easily spread any anyone who is sexually active risks being infected at any time by another. While incurable, there are treatment options available to help those who are infected live a healthy, intimacy-filled life. HPV is not the end-all in relationships and empowering yourself with knowledge once infected with ease the stressors and give you the courage you need to move on.
In this day and age, many more are being diagnosed with human papillomavirus or HPV, which is considered a sexually transmitted infection or STI. HPV can refer to one of over one hundred viruses that are linked to HPV and are passed through partners by skin-to-skin genital contact. Most often, this happens through unprotected oral, anal, and vaginal intercourse. This is currently the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States that over eighty-million Americans are currently being treated for (HealthLine). Every year, over thirteen-million more are infected and diagnosed.
Any sexually active humans have a risk of being exposed to and diagnosed with the human papillomavirus, and some may never know they have it while spreading it to other sexual partners. It is possible to carry this infection for years without any symptoms. Some people may never have symptoms or trouble from this infection, and others may have severe reactions. In many, the first signs are often warts on the genitals or in the throat.
In severe and rare cases, the human papillomavirus has been linked to the growth of cervical cancer and many other cancers of the genitals, head, neck, and throat. As HPV can often go undetected, one may not even realize they have this infection and are then aware they are possibly spreading the bacteria and virus through their multiple sexual partners. This can also make it harder for people to pinpoint when they may have gotten HPV, or who they got it from, or gave it to. If you have or are diagnosed with the human papillomavirus, meet with your doctor to form a plan of action and to be aware of how to not spread the infection any further.
How can I tell my partner that I have HPV?
The most important aspect of living with HPV is being open and honest about your condition. While having this infection does not limit you or cut you off from intimacy or sexuality, there are certain things you can do to help others understand and avoid becoming infected. Talking with your partner may cause anxiety and frustration, but it is something that any serious partner deserves to know, as it could affect their health, too.
Here are some things to consider when preparing to discuss your human papillomavirus diagnosis with your partner:
- Remember more than anything- you did not do anything wrong in ending up with HPV. You do not need to apologize for your diagnosis. You did not intentionally infect yourself with this. Remember, every sexually active adult will be exposed to HPV in their lifetime. So, every adult having intercourse of foreplay takes this risk with their partners.
- Educate yourself as much as you can. The more information you have on any subject and the more aware you are, the easier it will be to deal with this infection. Depending on your strain, your risk could be lower or higher for additional issues and problems, and some strains do not cause many issues at all. Other types have been linked to cancer or developing other medical issues. Learning everything you can about the specific strain you are dealing with will help you plan for your future without unnecessary worry and stress.
- Plan the discussion with your partner at the right time and in a place that is comfortable for you both. You might also want to consider meeting somewhere private, as this is a personal subject that you might not want the general public to overhear. Do not blindside your partner or spring the news on them in an inappropriate situation, like grocery shopping or out at the bar with friends. Schedule time that you can sit down with each other and focus on the matter at hand.
Your partner may have questions about your infection. Consider printing out some information or giving them some web sites to visit. If your doctor has handouts or print-out information, get all you can for them to learn and understand. If you are unable to answer some of the questions or do not feel right doing so, ask if your partner would like to attend a doctor’s appointment with you and ask any questions they may have directly to your medical care team. This option may only be feasible for steady, long-term couples as it does reveal much of your medical history and care.
Keep an open mind and explore all options available before your discussion. When you feel empowered with information, this allows your brain and body to function without issue, relieving extra stressors and chaos that could play a role in this talk. Here are common questions asked by partners who have learned of their partners’ sexually transmitted infection of the human papillomavirus:
- Do either of us need special treatment?
- Should I be tested?
- How did you find out you have HPV?
- Will you have this infection forever?
- How will this infection affect our lives?
-Have an open and honest discussion about your future. IF your partner feels that your HPV infection is the end of your relationship and they are unwilling to work with you through it, maybe they are not the partner meant for you. In no way is HPV a deal breaker or does it need to be the cause of a relationship ending. If your partner is angry and upset, remember that you did not do this to them, or yourself, on purpose. Remind them of this as often as you need to. It may take some time to digest this news and what it might mean for your future together.
While there is no cure for the human papillomavirus, there are many ways it can be treated and kept at bay. By staying on top of your medical health and paying attention to your body for new symptoms, you will be able to maintain your own HPV care with the help of your medical care team and live a normal life with plenty of intimacy if you so choose.
Intimacy is only affected when communication lacks, and the fears come in to play. While there is no perfect way to prevent spreading or getting HPV if you are sexually active, barrier methods and clean body hygiene are simple ways to begin. Speak with your doctor or sexual wellness specialist about your options.
I think I may have HPV. What is testing like?
Both women and men can be infected with the HPV virus, but only woman are able to be tested. These tests are not as easy as other sexually transmitted infection tests, and these tests are not something commonly listed in routine screenings. HPV screening tests are usually done in conjunction with the female pap smear test, especially when abnormal cell results are shown. Pap smears are normally done every three to five years for normal screenings, and more frequently for any woman with any unusual or abnormal results. Without indications or worry of contracting HPV, this test is not standardly done with common STI testing. If you think you might have HPV, contact your doctor or local department of health to discuss and find out how to proceed with screening in your state.
I have HPV. What can I do now to lessen the risk of passing it on, or worsening it for myself?
Due to the fact that HPV can be spread from skin-to-skin contact, protection methods like condoms may not provide you with any real barrier. The only real way to keep you or your partner protected from contracting or spreading HPV is to abstain from having intercourse. That, however, is not a realistic idea or welcome concept in many relationships.
If you have a high-risk strain of HPV, you should discuss your options with your doctor. If you are in a monogamous relationship, you may share the virus back and forth between each other until it goes dormant. When this point is reached, your body may have built a natural immunity to it. This means that while you still carry the virus, you do not experience symptoms or issue, and may live with little complication. This would be the same for the infected partner, as well.
Using smart strategies with your partner now and in the future can ensure that you do not lose your intimacy or sexual wellbeing. When you are diagnosed, be sure to ask your doctor these questions:
- Are there valid websites that can help me learn more about this?
- Can you please give me information about all of the symptoms, treatments and the overall outlook for my life?
- What are tips for telling my partner or family about my HPV?
If you suspect that you may have been exposed to or have been infected by the human papillomavirus, make an appointment with your doctor or medical care team right away. The sooner you have a diagnosis, the sooner you can learn to live with this condition and find your new normal. In no way does this mean that intimacy or sexual times are over in your life, you will just need to plan ahead and be ready for all that is coming your way.