Are You Obligated to Tell Your Partner(s) that You Have HPV? This Doc Says No.

One of the most common questions I get from my patients who have had had an abnormal pap due to HPV infection is this –

Are they obligated to notify their past, current, future or potential sexual partners that they have or have had HPV?

I believe the answer is a qualified no. And here are the reasons why –

1. HPV is ubiquitous.

Close to three-quarters of adults have had HPV at some point in their lives. Ninety five percent of the time, that infection will clear within 1-2 years with no long-term consequences to themselves or their partners.

Although we can offer treatment or removal for genital warts and precancerous pap smears, there is no medical treatment to clear the HPV virus itself in an infected individual without these conditions. That’s the job of the immune system, which can be helped along in this regard by using condoms, avoiding tobacco and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

2. Unlike women, most men with HPV have no way of knowing they are infected.

Unless they have a visible genital wart, or a much, much rarer HPV-related cancer, most men who have HPV have no idea they are infected. That’s because there is no available HPV test for men. 

Women, on the other hand, if they happen to get an abnormal pap smear during the time they are infected, may very well find out that they have HPV. (I’m not going into the management of abnormal paps here, but suffice it to say that the overwhelming majority of abnormal paps due to HPV will resolve without treatment just as the virus itself resolves. Those that don’t, and which carry precancerous changes, can be effectively treated,)

3. Why then, should a woman be obligated to tell her partner that she has HPV? 

Given the ubiquitous nature of HPV infection, unless her partner is a virgin, the odds are pretty darned high that he already has had HPV. He may actually have the infection right now and be the one who gave it to her. On the other hand, he may have had it in the past and already be immune to the strain of HPV she has. Or be infected with another strain she does not have, so that she may actually be the one taking the risk by sleeping with him.

She’ll never know, and he’ll never know. Because he cannot be tested. Or treated.

4. HPV is not like chlamydia.

There is no role for partner notification and  treatment in preventing the spread of HPV. The only thing that partner notification accomplishes is to turn women with abnormal paps into pariahs, while the rest of the HPV infected men and women out there continue to copulate in blissful ignorance.

Which is why I don’t believe that every abnormal pap needs to turn into an STD confessional.

I do believe that all sexually active adults have an obligation to themselves and others to  prevent the spread of HPV and other STD’s by practicing responsible sexual activity.

That means being tested and treated for those STD’s whose spread we can stem through screening and partner notification, being vaccinated against those we can prevent, using condoms and limiting our numbers of sexual partners.

It’s not a moral message, unless morality means acting responsibly and maturely, and respecting one’s own health and that of others. By limiting one’s partners, I mean confining intimate physical relationships to those who we really care about. (Dare I use the word love?…)

In this context, some women may take HPV infection as a sign that it’s time to stem the one night stands.  A few may choose to hold off on relations altogether until their infection clears. The majority, who are already limiting their sexual activity to caring relationships, will make no changes in their behavior except perhaps to use condoms until the infection clears. And if they are already in a caring relationship, they usually end up discussing it with their partner. Because that’s what couples do – they talk about their lives, their health and their fears.

Which is very, very different from mandatory STD partner notification and treatment.

The Good News

The good news for HPV-infected women is that almost all HPV infections will clear. Once HPV is gone, your increased risk for cervical cancer goes with it. As does your risk for transmitting the virus to others. Which takes care of the issue of future partners.

The other good news is that getting regular pap smears will prevent the uncommon but important consequence of HPV infection – cervical cancer.

Genital warts are worth discussing with your partner.

I do think it’s worth discussing with your current partner if you discover that you have genital warts.More often that you’d think, the male partner may have  small, previously undetected genital warts that are amenable to treatment. He can visit his doc for a careful exam and get treated if warts are present. That in turn may help you clear the infection faster yourself, since your immune system won’t be under constant barrage with high viral loads from your partner.

Condoms are also worth discussing.

If you have an abnormal pap due to HPV, and you are not using condoms, it’s worth discussing the matter with your partner and asking him to use protection when you have sex. Women with HPV whose partners use condoms will clear the virus and return to normal paps faster than those who have unprotected sex.

There is a role for HPV vaccination.

I also support the use of HPV vaccination. Despite my objections to how it has been priced, marketed and legislated, the vaccine is safe and effective. Getting vaccinated after you’re infected won’t help you clear the infection faster, but can prevent new infections with the 4 strains that the vaccine targets.

52 Responses to Are You Obligated to Tell Your Partner(s) that You Have HPV? This Doc Says No.

  1. Thanks for some of the facts on this virus. Very helpful indeed. I am an admitted virus-phobe (they are going to take over the earth, just ask Will Smith in “I am Legend”…), and I believe that our understanding of virology is nowhere near as advanced as it could/should be. Being so dependent on immune response is not enough of a comfort factor for me knowing that the population’s immune response is shifting dramatically over time. My daughter just got told from a dermatologist that her skin is “defective” because we are all too clean and over vaccinated. The skin’s response to fight things off is limited now compared to before. The idea that viruses can mutate so quickly is unsettling to say the least. Knowing that there are over 100 strains of HPV for example, I am not comfortable that a benign strain today, won’t be one for concern in the future for example.

    The vaccine perspective is one that my wife and I are grappling with now with my 15 year old son. We want him to get the vaccine…funny thing is that his pediatrician doesn’t carry the vaccine that is approved for boys, and won’t order it in. His response to me? We don’t worry about HPV in boys. My response to him? WE do. Now shopping for new docs.

    • Schrugglin-

      The CDC has recommended HPV vaccination with the quadravalent vaccine in boys, so I think it is not unreasonable for you to seek it for your son.

      I’d find an adolescent medicine doc for your son if you are making a change at this age. I’ve been to the society for adol medicine annual meetings and they are an amazing group of docs. here is a link to their website to find an adolescent medicine specialist in your area –



  2. Just a reminder to keep it civil here on my blog. I’m happy to entertain opposing opinions, but I reserve the right to remove comments that descend below the level of civil discourse. (I just removed a comment, that’s why I’m writing this.)


  3. I am curious as to what your thoughts are regarding disclosing genital warts. Do you feel it is necessary to disclose even after you have had the warts treated and have cleared the virus?


    • Amy –

      No more than you need to tell everyone you shake hands with for the rest of your life that you had a wart on your pinkie once. But if you have a wart on your finger, get it taken care of. And just wave hello till its gone.

      Every patient and every relationship is different, you need to do what feels right to you.

      Thanks fro reading.


  4. Whoever I got the HPV virus from certainly did not have outward symptoms…is it possible for the warts to show up on women but not men in some cases?

  5. Just wanted to share my story here because it seems to be somewhat of an active forum, and I want people to know they aren’t alone.

    Several months ago I had an abnormal pap, and was scheduled to come back in for a colposcopy. Had I not asked right then and there if this meant I had HPV (because I have heard of it before), I do not think I would have been informed.

    After the colposcopy I was told my cervix looked fine, and they took a small biopsy from my vaginal wall. I was assured it wasn’t a big deal, though still very concerned, and also told it wasn’t something I needed to share with sexual partners, past, or future.

    Recently, I had unprotected sex with someone new (very foolish, I know), and a friend I had trusted with my private concerns/fears ended up telling him I had HPV.

    Like most men, unfortunately, he did not understand what this was, and of course immediately looked it up online, where it sounds absolutely horrid and may as well be as life-altering as a herpes diagnosis or HIV infection. He was/is furious, and I want to crawl under a rock and die.

    I wasn’t trying to hurt or deceive anyone, I was only doing what my doctor told me to do. Now I have this mess and embarrassment to deal with, and the guy will probably never want to touch/sleep with/see me again (especially considering all the information about it being transferred orally, and he performed oral sex on me). I feel like a leper shunned from society.

    So, I can definitely relate to the several posts on here by women who’s partners were very upset, but I’m willing to assume that it is because you were told similar things. I actually read in Glamour magazine today that doctors DO suggest sharing it with partners. What gives?

    I’d also like to ask, has anyone spoken to male partners who they supposedly infected with HPV? This guy is insisting on going to be “checked” (though I tried to explain to him… in vain.. that there are no tests for men!).
    I’m wondering what a doctor/medical professional would tell a man who comes to them concerned about being infected with HPV; I’m concerned they are going to make him think I’m even more disgusting.

    • There is no FDA approved test for men. If a man is concerned, he can see a urologist. However, there are tests for men in lab settings only. Also, men can be tested for oral HPV at a dental office.

    • Doctors who tell you you don’t have to disclose are wrong, because there is legal liability in withholding this information from someone you expose. I cannot fathom any good excuse for not telling a partner that you know you have a virus that could cause warts or a bunch of different cancers. Doctors should be able to comprehend that, but apparently some cannot. Do some doctors tell their patients they don’t have to disclose AIDS? What would the excuse be? “oh, HIV is very treatable now, it’s not even really a death sentence anymore, you live for a long time if you can afford the meds!”

  6. I just took a look at the new Glamour issue. Yes, it does have one doctor saying you must disclose.

    • But do you think it’s possible that when they suggest you tell that they are referring to before you have cleared the virus when it is easy to spread?

      • I’ve heard the GYNs say you don’t have to tell if it’s dormant. But I have also read an account where a GYN told a woman she doesn’t have to tell because everyone has it anyway. It was in a testimonial from Women Against Cervical Cancer.

        Look at the account by “Michelle.”

  7. I’m newly diagnosed with HPV. I have reason to believe it came from my last sexual partner nearly a year ago. My last sexual patner before that was 3 years before that.

    The most recent one lied about being married. I got carried away with him one night (not knowing he was married) and had unprotected sex. One of the 3 times I ever had unprotected sex in my life. The first being on my home turf, where I realized I was being an absolute idiot and bought condoms and spermicide capsules and then the sponge when it was available. Just to have around, in case.

    Second unprotected sex episode was an analyzed risk thing. We had both been away from our last sex partners for six months or more, both had STD testing and came back negative. He had a vasectomy so birth control wasn’t an issue. We decided to have sex without protedtion.

    Other than that, I was a neurotic double method girl, using a condom and a back up method.

    My most recent sex partner was about a year ago. We were both traveling for wok. He lied to me about his marital status, saying he was divorced, neglecting to say he’s remarried to his second wife. I knew none of this when I met him. He seemed charming, smart and funny. I fell for him and had a travel fling, which I’d never done before. I got caught up in the heat of the moment and didn’t insist on condoms on the 2nd day we met which is when things got sexual. I let him have sex with me without a condom. He pulled out before he ejaculated. The next day, with regret for bad decison making (not normally something I do), I did the pharmacy walk of shame, buying condoms, sponges and Plan B just to be on the safe side. We were together for the next week and had protected sex after

    But the one time was enough. I’ve always had negative STI test (I get one six months or so after any sexually active relationships end). and never had an abnormal PAP smear.

    In fact, I got no results from my doctor’s office (she later apologized for that). I made a follow up appointment for painful menstrual cramps (ongoing problem since puberty problem) 2 months after my initial annual. No one called me or even mentioned it when I made the follow up appointment.

    I was expecting to get some questions about Mirena answered (which I eventually did) But I found out I was HPV postitive with cervical cell changes. My dr. was very upset at the office failure in communications which led to me not knowing. But it’s also rough to go into an office and expect routine answers to some questions only to be informed I have a STI, I need to be observed and maybe tested/montored/treated for cervical cancer. I’m still reeling from it a bit. The office was supposed to copy/mail my results late Monday. It’s Thursday I havent gotten the results back yet and it’s early Friday (mail travels fast in NYC) I still have to go for the cyposcopy and possible biopsy to see what they’ll find and what treatment will be needed.

    Back to the guy who probaby gave it to me. I’m not mad at him on the HPV. Probably didn’t know he had it, etc. But male carriers have ended up with throat cancer. I don’t know his wife or other sexual partner’s PAP/HPV test schedule

    What’s my obligation to him and his wife/other sexual partners? I broke it off as soon as I found out he was married. I hand’t contacted him in months and sent him a text asking if this was the best way to contact him. Almost a week, no replise. What are my obligations to inform him?

    • Newly HPV Pos

      Trying to figure out where or when one got HPV is often impossible. Unless a person had a negative HPV test that turns positive after a given encounter with no others in between, or has had only one partner, it is really impossible to know. Often the only reason we end up finding out someone has HPV is because their pap is abnormal. That person may have gotten HPV long before this diagnosis was made but had normal paps until now, so there was no reason to find out before.

      One can acquire HPV even if a condom is used. Which does not mean to not use condoms, but to make the point that condoms are not 100% protective.

      I tend to try to keep my patients focused on the pap smear management and not the HPV infection. Once the pap is abnormal, the management is fairly straightforward and quite effective at preventing cervical cancer in the future.

      You should talk to your doc about yourself and what is best for you to do.

      Thanks for reading.


      • I get tested for HPV, HIV, herpes and other STIs 6 months or a bit more after relationships end as a standard practice. Since so many conditions are asymptomatic, I like to know for myself and for the health and safety of any future partners. My last HPV test about 3 years ago was negative. No new partners since then until almost a year ago. No new partners after him. Got tested in April. So while I can’t 100 percent say it’s him, I’m fairly sure it’s him.

        I plan to remain celibate until at least the HPV comes back negative and the PAP comes back normal. Given that HPV can be linked to throat cancers in men, I will be informing future partners. If they choose to drop me, judge me or shame me, they’re not the kind of men I want to date anyway.

      • PS I really think STI testing should be more routine. I grew up in a family/religion where sex was something to shame people, especially women, about. It took me awhile to overcome it, but I did. Even still, it was difficult to ask for STI testing the first time. Even people in monogamous relationships can be exposed to STIs by their partner’s infidelity. But there’s actually a disincentive for the wandering spouse to tell. So the other spouse can go for years without knowing he or she has a STI.

        While I spent a fair amount of time this week beating myself up for what I did wrong, I also acknowledge what I did right. I held to my schedule of testing. I was a bit past the 6 month mark when tested at 9 months, but it took me awhile to schedule the appointment and for a time that was compatible with my work hours.

        I’m relieved I found out before meeting anyone else because the knowledge will help prevent spreading it to someone else. I stay home from a party if I have a cold because I don’t want to get people sick. I’ll go to work if I have to and I’m not too sick, but even then, I’m constantly washing my hands/won’t shake people’s hands, etc.

  8. i was recently diagnosed with hpv because i noticed white bumps on the outside of my vagina and they were diagnosed as genital warts. i have been crying for weeks. i have been getting the acid treatment and they are getting better but i am afraid to have sex again. i have been promiscuous in the past and this is my cue to cut it out. the doctor told me she treats genital warts 5 times a day! and that soo many people have this. i am afraid to tell anyone, i already have a hard enough time finding a man, that is why i sleep around 🙁 but not anymore. what do i do?

  9. If your partner has it and passed it to you then does that mean you can’t be with him sexually since he will always pass on the hpv? What if you want to have kids together? Will it affect the situation- like, wait to clear off the hpv before trying for a baby?

  10. Informative article – but as most literature on sexual health does, completely ignores lesbians and assumes all women have male sexual partners

  11. I was diagnosed with HPV several years ago, and I was angry at the time, but not surprised – all of my girlfriends had it, so I figured it was only a matter of time before it showed-up in me. Honestly, I had unprotected sex several times, so what do you expect? You pay to play.

    I was “treated” (coloscopy then leep,) and – after that – had two “normal” pap smears. So, I thought I was all in the clear. I made the mistake of sleeping with my new partner without protection, because I figured – “Hey, he won’t know if he has it and if we break up and he passes it on to a future sex partner, there is no way he can trace it back to me.” I also felt that he was safe because of the regular pap and the treatment I underwent.

    What did I do? After long thought, I sat him down and told him the truth, because A.) I felt guilty and B.) He is a nice guy. What happened? He told me he appreciated my honesty and we were together for a year. We recently parted ways but it was not because of the HPV.

    Ladies, trust your gut instinct; If the guy you’re with is a jack ass and you know he’ll blow it all out of proportion, then honestly, I wouldn’t tell him. If you know he is not a virgin, then he has inevitably already been exposed to it, so why cause you both all the stress? There is no way that 1.) he can be tested and 2.) Even if he gets it, that it came from you. I am referring to the high-risk strains, not the warts. Unfortunately, you’re going to be fronted out about the warts, unless you and he were part of a giant orgy. Otherwise, he’s going to know where they came from.

    However, if you know the man is truly a good man, then I would sit him down and talk with him, but make sure you’re armed with the facts. Heck, print out the CDC info and give it to him.

    Why? Because a good man is not going to blow up, and he likely will take that into consideration if you both don’t work out in the long run. He will likely let future sex partners know that he may have been exposed because he cares about their health. A guy who is out for booty is not going to warn his partner because he is selfish and could care less. Again, he also would think “she’ll never prove it came from me.”

    Men aren’t the victims here, ladies….it’s us. Seriously, when it comes to HPV, it has played out like the movie “Kids” in my experience. Even my friends who have only had one (two at the most) partners have been diagnosed with it.

    • You summed it up well, EStrang. I’m so happy there are people out there mature enough to give people the benefit of the doubt and realize how common HPV is.

      • Estrang and Didn’t Tell –

        Great discussion ladies. As I said up there, talking about their worries and concerns is what couples do.

        I’ve also often told my patients that telling a partner about an STD is a true test of a relationship – when a guy really cares about you, he will stand by you.
        But if he doesn’t care, then HPV may be his excuse to get out. I’ve seen it time and again with both HPV and herpes; in some cases where it is clear that he was the one who gave her the infection! I say good riddance, and good thing you found out now instead of later.

        Thanks for adding your thoughts to this comment train.


  12. Hey all , I was diagnosed with HPV more than 2 years ago at 20 years old, doctor said it was genital warts . That time I just broke up with my ex gf .Maybe 2 weeks of agony, waking up every morning and the first thought is about HPV , sux… Well I cleaned my small bumbs and I was back to normal life , I’m sexual active person with different partners .. I believed when there are no symptoms , risk is extremely low with condom . Anyway I started to have outbreaks … It comes and dissapears , sometimes needed to be removed. Everytime I visit my doctor he laughs at me that I notice such a small thing … my mood was totally controlled by this decease …. No warts – life is good , warts – u feel like u r not a human or w/e … I’m a man , I would say I’m attractive person , Everytime I slept with a different girl I never confess about my decease , most of nights were one stand . Of course my conscience started to eat my mind … One night I couldn’t sleep and was reading about decease , read and read . Finally I thought carefully , and decided that I will confess to only 1 person – my futured wife . Meanwhile I will keep it in secret , and not gonna feel bad about it . Let’s say transferring decease with condom is low , also 80% of sexual active women will be infected , so it’s like out of 10 girls – 8 will get it at some of their point of life . So on my own responsibility 2 girls … Let’s over rate and say that chance to transfer genitsl warts with condom is 50% so it’s 1 girl out of 10 🙂 and she is gonna be my wife hehe …. I really started to think easy about this decease … It is also a good test for ur futured husband or wife ….. I also have genital herpes … I payed enough for my crazy life … But I feel stronger inside . Actually now I’m really worried about the girl I’m dating with , cause I want to build relation ships … But I’m not sure how long it may last … I really wanna tell her …but it means that I will shoot myself in my own leg ….so little bit confused now .

    • I’m also not keeping any anger on my ex that transferred it to me …. If she would tell me before , I would be scared and loose the great memories and moments that we been through…. There is always price for everything .

      • Live4long – it is wonderful that you are able to see past what your ex did and recognize her otherwise good qualities. That says a lot about you as a person.

  13. I am a 22 yr old Female and I just found out that Ive been tested positive for HPV about a few days ago. Ive been seeing this friend of mine (which is female also) since the ending of April, beginning of May and I notified her of my condition. Fortunatly, she’s been vaccinated twice in the past but to be on the safe side she’s seen her doc and was informed that she was ok!

    I have a few questions and concerns. The clinic that Ive been to said for me to make another appointment to be retested in 12 months!!!!! Do I really HAVE to wait that long? Can I continue sexual activity with my partner being that she’s been vaccinated? There isnt any visible indication of gential warts, should I still worry about them in the future? And being that I dont have any gential warts does that mean that im at a low risk stage? I also smoke cigerates, how does that affect my immune system from fighting off the virus?

  14. I just recieved a diagnosis of having hpv….. I am a 45 yr old married woman who has never had an std. I knew that I had an unfaithful husband at one time who has changed his ways. But I cant help but to be a little angry at him for this. If you are sexually active please protect yourself and the one ur supposed to love. Women and men lets stop being foolish. Because right now im feeling very foolish 🙁

  15. Thought I would join in this conversation. I am a 42 year old, now-single woman with no children. I was diagnosed with HPV when I was 31,and for over 10 years now I have never had genital warts or cervical cancer and hopefully I never will. I really have some anger about the “double standard” I see going on with this STD. I think boys and men should be recommended to get the Gardisil vaccine as much as girls and women are, and there ought to be a test recommended for men to have if they think they might have it. Is this STD even discussed in the sex ed classes in schools these days? I’m not dating anyone at this moment, but I’m still unsure about telling someone I was serious about…I think what it boils down to is that in any relationship, without trust there is no love, as they say. I would calmly tell someone I have this and tell them what I know about HPV and if they treat me like a leper and run for the hills, then they’re showing their true colors and I’m better off finding someone with some maturity. I know that’s easier said than done, but I don’t want a guy thinking I was deceptive. Men should have to be tested too!

    • new Person –

      FYI – Most HPV infections are not permanent. I have had patients get screened to determine if they still carry the virus and find it helpful to find that they no longer have it. It is a simple test with the pap smear.

      Would discuss this with your do who knows you best.

      All the best


      • Dr., there was an HPV activist who recently died. God rest her. Her name was Bonnie Diraimondo. This poor woman had every problem imaginable from HPV for over 20 years. It was her belief that this virus never goes away and only goes dormant. She was first diagnosed in 1987. In 1991, she developed invasive anal cancer related to HPV. She had a recurrence of the cancer in 2008. In the meantime, she had precancerous lesions of the cervix, vulva and vagina which required procedures. At some point after her first bout with cancer, the virus went dormant for about 15 years and then she had problems with HPV once again. She chronicled her story in a book entitled “Any Mother’s Daughter.” She was very critical of people who did not disclose, even if they listened to their doctor’s advice or interpreted their doctor as not sounding worried.

        What are your thoughts on this? How could her body not have fought off the infection after all this time? And even if she did fight it off after the first bout with cancer, how could she have tested positive again? Thank you.

          • Personally, I thought she was too harsh in beating up on people who just listened to doctors, but I definitely think her book is worth checking out. It has a lot of medical information. She was also very critical of the medical communty’s handle on HPV.

  16. i’m 22, I had a pap smear a couple of months ago and it came back with a low grade something lesion which my doctor said was a sign of HPV, she has referred me to a gynaecologist who im seeing next month. but when I had my pap done I had also just started seeing a new guy and he wasn’t keen on using condoms…I wasn’t on the pill so we ended up using them but since then I have gone back on the pill and i spent the night at his place 1 or 2 nights ago and we had unprotected sex and since then i noticed a red lump on my labia. This evening i noticed that the red lump was now whitish and hurting a little bit, i think it may be a wart, and i’ve made an appointment with my doctor but I don’t know whether or not to tell this guy i’m seeing that I now have a wart. i dont know if i could have contracted it from him or other people who i have slept with. im freaking out and could really do with some advice…

  17. Sounds like you’re lucky to be out of that relationship. Most people in life get it and are unaware. It’s a shame women get the burdon of proof on this since there is no test for men.

    The only reason you should regret not telling him this in the first place is that he probably would have irrationally flipped out like he did later on, and then that would have saved you a relationship.

  18. I was recently diagnosed with genital warts and am very worried about telling my girlfriend. We had been sexually active a few times right before I noticed them, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t get it from her since she was a virgin. I feel like it is my duty to tell her but I’m very nervous about losing her. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before and really feel like she is the one for me. The thought of losing her makes me feel sick to my stomach. Can you please offer any advice on what I should do or how I should go about telling her?

    • Hey man , it’s much more easier than you imagine . I remember when the first time I told to the girl about my genital warts and genital herpes , she just smiled and appreciated that I told her that , her words were like : ” you are such a good guy , I’m thankful that you said that to me , another person wouldn’t do it” There is only one thing I would recommend is to choose the right location and time . I did it on my 2nd date with her in the crowded shopping mall . Good luck buddy

  19. Peggy,
    I applaud this article. As a woman who found out about having HPV last year, I went through so much emotions. As I continued to do more research, the question about the responsibility in telling a potential partner weight heavily on me. Especially since I found myself feeling much of what you wrote: the fact that there are no tests for men, many people having sex in blissful ignorance and being labeled. I was denied, after requesting, the HPV vaccine right at the cut-off age. I requested the HPV test with my routine PAP one month after turning 30 (the doctor was reluctant to do it). Learning the HPV info, I kind of regretted getting tested because I had no abnormal cells and thought that if I cleared up, I would still be one of the ignorant blissful people. I felt a bit discouraged at being proactive about my health. Reading your viewpoints on many points has helped as I have found myself agreeing with your sentiments (and medical wisdom).

    I told someone I cared about before we were feeling like we wanted to have sex. He was in the heat of passion and didn’t care. But, I stopped as I felt he was too distracted. He them calmed and listened. He got a little overwhelmed and started looking it up as I was explaining it. He told me that it was good that I told him as many women would not and that it showed my character. He was compassionate. Our relationship did not grow from that time, but I do not contribute it fully to the HPV. It has crossed my mind, wondering if thinking it over it caused him to prefer trying something with another woman instead. But, I have to trust that things happen for a reason. I am more positive now going into the future. I am seeing someone right now and if it moves into a situation where we want to be committed and physical, I will more than likely talk to him about it. This could prove to be a good thing in that acceptance of this adds power to the sincerity of a potential deeper connection. And, who doesn’t want full acceptance? I am thinking positive, which is great for the immune system I have my follow up pap in a week and am hoping for the best. 🙂

  20. Dr. P,

    This was an interesting read, and very relevant to something I am trying to deal with now. I am a 31 year old male, and my new girlfriend just informed me over the weekend that she has HPV (which was made known by an abnormal pap). I am assuming that this means it’s not one of the strains that causes warts? Secondly, it seemed that her doctor(s) didn’t seem to think that any of this is that big of a deal provided that she gets a pap smear on a regular basis. Knowing this, I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, there is, it seems, a huge likelihood that I already have it considering that I have had unprotected sex with women before..and from what I understand, I wouldn’t even know it unless I contracted the type with warts, which I have no reason to believe I have.
    If I shun her over this, it may be pointless considering the fact that statistically (correct me if I am wrong), I most likely have it anyway. Of course, if I don’t already have it, then my logical side says it’s better not to get it..But of course, it doesn’t seem that there is any way I would know if I have it already or not anyway.

    Do you have any advice?


  21. I love this blog for its recipes and other articles, but I seriously must respectfully disagree with this entry. I feel as though it is putting all people in a sexual relationship and their future partners in a dangerous and awkward position. Partners get exposed to HPV without their knowledge and consent because people are told by health care professionals that it’s okay not to disclose because of how “ubiquitous” HPV is.

    And in the meantime, other well-meaning people who would otherwise disclose prior to sex are being convinced that they don’t have to because they could assume someone already has it if they are not a virgin. When I made that assumption about my ex who was with his ex of many years before me and figured I was no more likely to infect him than the next one based on this theory, it got me into a lot of trouble. The fact that he got angry and cut me off was just the tip of the iceberg. I am now also feeling guilty over the possibility of being the cause of someone else getting cervical cancer and possibly the cause of my ex getting oral cancer.

    I have disclosed to subsequent dates ever since. There are not only moral but legal obligations to do so. Who knows if one can be sued or even thrown into jail in some states for taking this advice? Karly Rossiter won a lawsuit for $1.5M against her ex-boyfriend because she contracted HPV. And Rep. John Enns in Oklahoma wanted to make this “felony assault” to go in the direction that this article steers readers.

  22. To commenters –

    I always welcome your thoughtful comments regarding this post, whether you agree with me or not.

    However, this comment section has morphed into an HPV chat room, with some folks asking for and other folks holding court and giving out advice, some of it medical.

    For this reason, I have decided to close comments on this post, and have deleted the more recent comments that are clearly asking for or giving out advice. I”m sorry to have to do this.

    Those whose comments I deleted, please understand – This blog is meant to be informational, and never meant to give individual advice (see my disclaimer). I just cannot have others using it for that purpose.

    Thank you for reading and for your understanding.


  23. An emailed question
    Subject: Thanks for your blog and a question
    Hi Dr. Polaneczky,

    I came across your blog entry here.

    I have to admit I found it extremely refreshing in a situation where I feel a very small unlucky portion of the population, mostly women, has to bear the burden of what is essentially a problem of the entire population.

    I for the most part agree with all your sentiments re: disclosure of different hpv infections. The one thing that has me scratching my head though is this – I recently learned that low-risk strains such as 6 and 11 can cause ASCUS or LSIL abnormal paps in the absence of warts. Additionally, I know that most practices do not routinely test women for low-risk strains. There seems to be a danger that an asymptomatic abnormal pap caused by a low-risk strain (or co-infection with a high-risk strain) could cause a partner to come up with warts.

    What is the chance of this happening? Could you shed some light on this?

    Thank you again and happy holidays

    My response

    We do not routinely screen for wart-causing virus strains. You are correct that asymptomatic infection with HPV 6 and 11, whether it is in the skin, the vagina or the cervix, can lead to warts in a partner. Am posting your question and my response on the blog so others may benefit.

    Margaret Polaneczky, MD

    Thanks for reading!

    Reader response
    Thanks for your response, but I guess my question is more, if there is a decent chance your abnormal pap can be caused by 6 and 11 in the absence of outward symptoms, and can indeed cause problems (warts) in a male partner, wouldn’t you be obligated to tell him?

    Thanks again

    My response

    I think the argument holds sway more in the presence of a lgsil pap and negative HPV than with ascus and neg HPV. But given that both paps and HPV testing have both false positives and false negatives, informing a partner that you MIGHT have something seems fraught with confusion on both sides. But that’s just my opinion.

    Not obligatory means if YOU feel you should tell your partner, then by all means tell him/her. If the chance of HPV 6/11 is enough to spur you to have the conversation, then by all means have it.

    But the CDC is not going to be setting up an HPV partner notification program anytime soon. And I for one would not fault anyone with as ascus/LGSIL pap and negative HPV who decides not to share that information.

    Have a great day.

    Margaret Polaneczky, M.D.