Talking to Your Partner About HPV
Approximately 75-80% women (and men) get human papilloma virus at some stage in life. It usually produces no symptoms and many women will not even know that they have had the infection. However for some the diagnosis comes as a result of a routine smear test and this can raise many questions, not just for the patient but for out of concern for her partner too.
If you have been diagnosed with HPV, read the information below for considerations for you and your partner.
Do I need to tell my partner?
This is entirely your decision. Most men and women with HPV infection carry the infection without ever being aware of it. HPV infection does not need to be treated and in 95% cases, you would get rid of it through your immunity.
Currently, validated testing for men is neither needed nor available. If either or both of you also have genital warts, you may need treatment for that.
What are the important things to consider when telling my partner?
You should explain what it means for you as your partner would be concerned about that. As you know, HPV infection is very common and 80% men and women get it at some stage in their life. You should stress on the fact that HPV infection is often transient and no treatment is necessary unless there are abnormal cells (this applies to women). Most men and women would get rid of it through their own immunity.
HPV infection can be transferred through sex but also through skin to skin genital contact as it can be present in the skin around as well. Using condoms therefore does not completely protect against HPV infection.
For men, no further action is necessary unless they have any obvious lesions on the external organs. It is not necessary to carry out any other tests or treatment.
Does it mean they/I have been unfaithful?
Not at all. HPV infection can sometimes remain dormant in the body for several years and it is extremely difficult to say when you acquired it or who from.
Does my partner need an HPV test?
This is not necessary.
If my partner has HPV, what does this mean for him; does HPV affect men similarly to women (ie cause warts / cancer etc)
Medically speaking, it is not necessary to decide if your partner has HPV or not. Currently, HPV testing is not recommended for men. HPV causing cancer is uncommon in men. Men who smoke and may have acquired HPV infection through oral sex may be at a slightly increased risk of throat cancer, but again no tests are needed unless they have symptoms such as change in voice, difficulty swallowing or persistent sore throat and cough.
If my partner doesn’t have HPV, how can I prevent passing it to him?
It is very likely that you both carry the same subtypes of the virus and will have already developed immunity. Hence there is no risk of reinfection for both of you. As mentioned above, there is no fool-proof way of preventing HPV transmission nor is it necessary.
Can my partner re-infect me?
Currently, there is no evidence that you can be reinfected by the same subtype of HPV. So no additional precautions are needed.
I’m bisexual/gay, can I pass this to another woman through sexual contact?
Yes, this is possible through skin to skin contact.
Can men have HPV vaccination?
HPV vaccine is not licensed for men in the United Kingdom, but is routinely given to boys in some other countries (e.g. Australia). Privately, consultants at London Gynaecology are able to offer it to men in selected cases after consultation and counselling.