wart 15 years later
May 29, 2002
doctor, 19 years ago I discovered a small genital wart on my penis (condylomata accumunata). After several attempts to remove it by touching it with a very cold fluid in the hospital I decided to leave it as it was because every time the wart returned several weeks later. As a matter of fact I went completely nuts because of this. After three years the wart disappeared and it never returned spontaneously. By then I was married and ever since that time it was completely gone My wife never had this problem although we had sex. Now I am divorced and I notice that I am still worried about this, should I inform a potential new partner about this?
Response from Mr. Kull
You ask a complicated question that doesn't have an easy answer. Your decision to talk with your partners about having had a genital wart should be based primarily on the actual risk your partners might be at for infection with HPV.
Some people would argue that you should tell your partners about their possible risk for HPV infection since you did have a genital wart (you were diagnosed with this, right?). Even if the risk is low, from public health and ethical perspectives one could argue that partners should know about the potential risk for infection. If you use condoms and that practically eliminates risk, then your obligation to tell is questionable. However, HPV complicates this matter because condoms may not be all that effective in preventing the transmission of HPV.
Another thing: not talking with your partners might bring up some anxiety and/or guilt. Even if your partners don't respond well, the benefits of talking with partners could outweigh the benefits of keeping it to yourself.
Here's the flipside: if you haven't experienced an HPV-related lesion/genital wart in several years and you are healthy (not immunocompromised, for one), then it is unlikely that you are putting your partners at risk for infection with HPV. A person is much more likely to transmit HPV when they are experiencing an outbreak. It is not clear what the risk is of transmitting HPV when there isn't a lesion present, but the risk is, at best, low.
So if there is no risk to your partner, there is nothing to tell.
Did I confuse you? I hope not. Ultimately, the decision needs to be yours. If you have more questions about talking with your partner about HPV, see National HPV Resource Center.
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