Sex with HPV: Should I have unprotected sex with HPV or (a girl with HPV)?

ASK:

I met this nice girl – we are both 30. We have been using condoms every time so far. But, since condoms are no fun for us in an exclusive relationship, we both got tested for STD’s in preparation to not use the rubber. (She is also starting the pill.)

She came up positive for HPV. I understand that this is self-eliminating over a period of time – a few months to many years perhaps – no treatment exists. I also understand that it is rare for men to have serious complications from HPV. I understand that that the worst side of this can cause serious cancers in the rectum and penis and the lighter side of this is just warts in the penis area or throat.

Is having unprotected sex with HPV a bad or dangerous idea or is this one of those “everyone gets it” things? What are the real risks here regarding contracting this and/or having issues from this?

Using condoms with her long-term is a deal-breaker for me, so this is a go or no-go decision for me.


 

ANSWER:

Depending on your age (under 26?) and your sexual history (few partners with whom you’ve had condomless sex?), I strongly urge you to consider being vaccinated for HPV. Either Gardasil or Cervarix is approved for use in men. If you don’t meet those criteria, it is extremely likely that you’ve already been exposed and/or infected to the most common strains already.

There is no screening test for HPV infection in men, and it tends to be asymptomatic, but as said above, it is projected that approximately 50% of sexually active adults are infected at some point in their lifetime. While complications of HPV in men are very rare, they can include a variety of cancers (1,000 men in the US are diagnosed with penile cancer, and 1,700 men in the US are diagnosed with anal cancer, each year, as direct complications of HPV infection). So, if you’re in the demographic where the vaccine might provide protection, it’s a really good choice for men as well as women. If you’re not in that demographic, then unprotected sex with this woman is unlikely to significantly impact your odds of infection and/or complications. Be aware that HPV screening is not a typical part of an STI panel (it’s often only performed on women after an abnormal pap smear result). Therefore, you may well have had unprotected sex with one or more infected women in your past, without realizing it.

That being said, I honestly wouldn’t let this be a dealbreaker. I don’t know how strongly you feel about this woman, or about being condom-free, but given that HPV infections do tend to resolve on their own after some period of time, would you be willing to maintain condom use until she tests HPV negative (which could be a fairly short, or somewhat longer, period of time depending on when she was infected)? To me, that seems like a safe and reasonable intermediate, especially if you aren’t in a demographic where the vaccine will provide significant protection.


Girls with HPV, girls with herpes, please check http://womenwithherpes.org