The Doc Is In: I Have HPV. What Now?

Got a health question? Don’t trust those “Doctors” at the University Health Center? Are you scared of Web M.D. because it always tells you you’re gonna die? Ask a real doctor, like our friend Dr. Lissa Rankin. She’s here every Thursday to answer whatever you throw at her – like post-sex soreness – so ask away. Leave your question in the comments or send it over to us. Don’t be shy; she’s waiting for ya!

Q: I found out that I have HPV. So, having sex with my boyfriend, does that mean he has HPV too? And if either of us perform oral sex – can the warts then be transferred to our mouths? Will this lead to cancer? On the paper I got back from the doctor it said to come back in 12 months for another pap smear; will it get worse by then? I’m nervous.

A: HPV can be a sneaky bastard. Unlike sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia, HPV can hang around, unexpressed and asymptomatic, then suddenly rear its ugly head with little warning. Chances are that your partner also has HPV. In fact, chances are good that your boyfriend gave it to you. But it’s possible you could have contracted it from a prior partner and that he doesn’t have it. No way to know for certain, so the best strategy is to behave as if he doesn’t have it, just to protect him.

It’s unclear to me whether you have warts already or whether your HPV just came up on a pap smear. If it’s just a pap smear, chances are good that you carry the type of HPV that causes abnormal paps and cervical cancer, but not genital warts. The good news about this for your partner is that these strains of HPV tend to cause nothing in guys (which is why guys are passing it around like candy. They don’t even know they have it).

If you do have warts, you’ll want to be a bit more careful.  While condoms can help reduce the chance of transmitting warts, they can’t protect you completely. Because the condom only covers the shaft of the penis, it leaves vulnerable scrotal skin in contact with potentially infections coochie skin, so it’s important for him to realize that he may still wind up with warts.

As for oral sex, yes, laryngeal warts (warts in the larynx) have been reported. But they’re very rare. HPV tends to prefer the genitals and the anal area, so oral sex is relatively safe. If you want to be uber careful, you can use a dental dam to protect your boyfriend when he’s going down on you, and if you’re worried, have him wear a condom. (I know, it’s not sexy, but it is safe).

If your doc told you to wait a year to repeat your pap smear, I would wait a year. While abnormalities on paps can get worse, they change very slowly, and as long as you don’t miss a pap, you should be fine. Most of all, though, don’t worry. HPV is more of a nuisance than a life-threatening disease, as long as you listen to what your doctor recommends. I know it can be scary and embarrassing, but I commend you for trying to get the information straight. Take a deep breath. Now, let go of any anger, frustration, or shame you feel around this. And let it go. Stressing about HPV only makes it worse. You’ll be fine, sweetie.

For more about HPV, visit my website Owning Pink

– Dr. Lissa Rankin’s book, What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in Fall 2010. She invites you to join her Pink online community ( or read more of her writing at Owning Pink (



    1. I got HPV from my ex about two years ago, and it was before I had the Guardasil shot. My gyno actually had me come back in 6 months just to keep a careful eye on it. If you haven't gotten Guardasil yet, do it because there's a great chance it will help your HPV go away. It is scary finding out something like this, but most women get it without even knowing and it goes away on its own. Don't be too scared, just keep talking to your doctor and make sure you go back in 6 months instead of 12. I hope everything works out!

    2. Lynn says:

      I had an abnormal pap smear about 3 years ago and after some further tests was told I had HPV. There are a ridiculous number of strains, but they're basically divided into 2 categories: a large number of strains cause the warts, and the much smaller group has no symptoms at all but is a high-risk for cervical cancer. I had a high-risk strain so I had to have a biopsy done, and luckily no cancer cells. My doctor had me come back every 6 months to get a pap smear, since I was young he said for most young women it will just go away on its own. I've been doing just that and I've had regular paps the last two times.

      I would talk to your doctor about narrowing down which strain you have since you'll have a better idea of what goes on then.

    3. Sam says:

      I really disagree with the advice to "behave as if he doesn’t have it, just to protect him." HPV doesn't affect guys at all, but it can cause serious problems for women if left unattended, including cancer. Whether your boyfriend gave it to you or not, there's a good chance he has it – and that means he can transfer it back to you or give it to other partners if you two break up.

      Chances are you are both aware of your sexual histories, whatever they might be, so how does not telling him that he may or may not be carrying HPV protect him? Just be honest with him so he can get tested and make sure he doesn't give you HPV again after your case clears up.

      1. guineakitty says:

        I think you misinterpreted that advice. They're saying "behave as if he doesn't have it, just to protect him" as in, don't just assume he doesn't have the virus and have unprotected sex. You should still use a condom until he knows for sure, so if he doesn't have it already, he won't contract it. Also, it's wrong to say that guys cannot be affected because they CAN contract genital warts just like women can.

      2. ihateyou says:

        Tell the person you have. Its not game. I had a bf in the military stationed at Aviano , Italy. He slept with a Kristen and a Renee. When he came back we finally slept together. Then one day I receive cervical cancer and confront him. My bf informs the first two prior partners. And guess what? It can't be them, they don't believe him. So, he tells them to get tested. What do these two military whores do….nothing. He sees them with different partners acting like nothing is wrong…..just passing thru different men. Disgusting. If someone confronts you with this topic, have some character and take it seriously. High risk hpv is not something you should not want to pass on to other unsuspecting females.

      3. ihateyou says:

        Condoms don't protect you from hpv.

      4. chelsie says:

        That is not true that it does not affect guys at all….My husband of 15 years just became diagnosed with Penile cancer related to HPV. I thought the same thing when I was diagnosed 5 years ago with HPV and had a pre cancerious spot removed from my cervix. Of course back then thats what they thought….the men are usually the carriers and the women pay the price…well not so anymore…throat and esophogyll cancer as well as anal cancer in men related to HPV are rare but on the rise. So yes like any other type of STD or STI you need to be honest with your sex partners and educate yourselves on the best method of protection.

    4. […] our friend Dr. Lissa Rankin. She’s here every Thursday to answer whatever you throw at her – like how to deal with HPV – so ask away. Leave your question in the comments or send it over to us. Don’t be shy; […]

    5. […] our friend Dr. Lissa Rankin. She’s here every Thursday to answer whatever you throw at her – like how to deal with HPV – so ask away. Leave your question in the comments or send it over to us. Don’t be shy; […]

    6. Chloe Davies says:

      I have a friend who got cervical cancer because of HPV. right now she is under going chemotherapy and some anti-cancer drugs. . "

    7. Lili says:

      Dr. Rankin when I found out I had hpv all kinds of emotions came to me. Anger, confussed, scared, sad, disgusted, but now im like normal about it because I've done some research. However im really depressed because I told my partner for his own safety and now he dosent talk to me at all. Wht can I do? I try talking to him but he won't talk to me. This is getting to my head. Its been 3 weeks and no word from him. Worst thing is that we work together so I see him every day. I don't want to approach him @ work because I don't want to make a scene. Can you give me some advise.?

      1. dianna says:

        he isnt worth it then, he gave you the answer 3 weeks ago.

    8.  Gate Latch says:

      HPV can also lead to some skin scarring and that is not good:*-

    9. Smiley says:

      I'v been with my boyfriend since Jan 2009. I had a pap smear in Nov of 2008. My pap smear was good. I had another pap smear in March of this year and I found out I had HPV. My last partner before him was aug 2008. So did I get it from my current boyfriend or the ex. When I found out I told him, we are still together, but sometimes I feel that's the reason I'm still with him. Sometimes I want to stop dealing with him, but I don't want to go through meeting someone new and having to tell them that embrassing news about me.

      1. Jamie says:

        i am feeling exactly the same way, i don't know what to do….

      2. Jamie says:

        To Smiley:
        My man infected me a little over a year ago, he knew and didn't tell me because he thought that since he didn't have any breakouts he was cured. I was so upset, now I feel like I am staying with him just because I don't want him to do the same thing to someone else.
        I know it is not right, but I don't want to put a new partner through this either same crap either. "OH, you can sleep with me, but you might catch something." That's a real conversation starter!
        =( Not sure what to do, so I feel your pain.

    10. Smiley says:

      I'm sorry I got my dates mixed up I have been with my bf since Nov 2008 and got a Pap smear in March of 2009

    11. Wendy says:

      You need to know what strain you have. SOME strains don't cause problems for men but they can pass it on to there female partners and it can cause problems for them. Also. HPV doesn't go away. It lays dormant for periods of time and then rares it's ugly head. I recently had a cousin diagnosised with squamous cell carcanoma (stage 3) and this was caused from HPV. She had gotten treated over 15 yrs ago and had no problems until now. Micheal Douglas also had this same type of cancer.

    12. gene says:

      I just found out 4 days ago that i have HPV .My GYN did another test on me and told me to come back in 2 weeks am so scared .

    13. Leigh says:

      okay I just found out a little bit ago I have HPV. I’m so scared and freaked out right now. I can’t help thinking “how could this happen to me”. I’ve only had sex with one person (my husband) but he had 3 partners before we met. I want children badly and I am terrified I won’t be able to get pregnant. The nurse on the phone told me I probably won’t have hpv forever and it usually goes away in a couple years. Is this true? They don’t know what strand I have yet, I have to make an appt with an obgyn.😦

      1. angela says:

        i was scared about that too but i found an article online that said it doesn't affect your chances of getting pregnant or having a healthy baby. the only thing about HPV that can decrease your chances of getting pregnant is if you get certain treatments for abnormal cells on your cervix.

      2. Kaleb says:

        I am a guy who had HPV for several years… first the warts showed up really bad and then became more managable over time… The best thing you can do is to not stress. The more you stress the easier it is to breakout.. Try no to occupy your thoughts with whats going on down there. As soon as I incorporated this the hpv almost magically disappeared over the course of a few months.. I ended up having it for a few years but if i hadnt stressed myself out so much worrying about it I think it would have gone away sooner. Good luck to you, stay positive:)

    14. Crys. says:

      I got a call today from my doctor saying I tested positive for hpv I’m so upset how can this happen to me…i had a pap two yrs ago everything was fine…why me…I’m so stressed..

    15. Jamie says:

      Does the Gardisil shot help protect you even though you have already been diagnosed with HPV, is this a stepping stone a to a cure?
      I got diagnosed 2 years ago from a partner that was not honest with me and I got one of the strands that gave me warts. I do not have insurance anymore so I can not afford to go the my OBGYN. I haven t' had a break out in over a year, but am seriously considering the shot anyway or trying to find a clinic.
      I am 29 years old and am not sure what to do, so any help would be great.

    16. alana says:

      I've had hpv for 10 years. I got this from my ex i dated for 11 years, but we ended it about a year ago.Recently I started talking to a new guy 7 months ago and we were about to become very intimate. I decided to tell him before he got too attached or it went to the point of no return. I don't think he will ever talk to me again as he might be very disgusted i didn't tell him from the start. I know i did the right thing but i think i just lost my soul mate. I guess only time will tell if am meant to be happy again.

    17. Jessica says:

      I was diagnosed with HPV yesterday.It’s not serious. But the doctor told me to get on Gardisil to prevent genital warts. I told my bf but he doesn’t think its a big deal as long as its not serious.I’m getting the Gardisil shot to prevent the warts so I wont pass them on to my bf.

    18. Gia says:

      I have recently been diagnosed with HPV. The doctor is having me come back for a biopsy. I have done my research but I have some unanswered questions. For starters does having HPV mean you have cervical cancer or will have it in the future? Next what about my boyfriend, will he just keep giving it to me (he probably got it from me)? Also is it curable? I felt so disgusted with myself when I was told I had it but then the Dr said tons of people have it. Im just really nervous about this whole process. Last question is will this have an effect on a baby if I was trying to conceive. Thanks:)

    19. kayla says:

      I found out i have high risk hpv about 3 days ago and i cant stop stressing. I have a young daughter and iv been worring myself sick.😦 I also cant stop worring about my bf, i know hpv isnt as serious with guys as it is with woman, but idk if he could end up having oral cancer. i feel like him and i will never be able to be intimate again due to the fact that guys cant find out if they have it or not. what if mine gets cured and he gives it to me again???? ughhhh idk anymore😦

    20. Jose says:

      Seeing people talking about this issue is very interesting for me because it is a big taboo in my Country.

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