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HPV genital wart question

Jan 24, 2003

Dear Dr. I am rather confused on the HPV virus. I am a heterosexual male.

Could you tell us a little about HPV and how it's spread? Is it possible to get it orally? If you have HPV, do you have it for life? I heard your immune system can actually defeat it. Below, is some text taken from Planned Parenthood's website. "Most HPV infections go away by themselves within six months. Many women develop immunity - a natural protection - against different types of HPV. "

Are we led to believe that our body could eventually cure this? I don't have any symptoms, but I am worried. thanks

Response from Mr. Kull

HPV, short for human papillomavirus, is a the name for a group of viruses that cause genital lesions (warts) on the skin around the penis, vagina, and anus, and in the rectum or vagina/cervix. Approximately 20 million Americans are infected with HPV.

HPV is transmitted when a person's genital region come into contact with the virus during sexual contact (skin-to-skin). A person is more likely to be infectious when having active lesions. It is possible to transmit the virus when symptoms are not present; it is possible that a person is unaware of infection as many do not experience, or are not aware of, symptoms.

There isn't a cure for HPV, although a doctor can, and should, treat the lesions (usually in an office visit). Treatment often resolves symptoms, but it is not clear if treatment can acutally eradicate the virus, and there's no guarantee that a person would not experience recurrent outbreaks or is not infectious. HIV infected people are more likely to have recurrent and more severe outbreaks.

Screening is important for women since certain strains of HPV could put them at increased risk for cervical cancer. Some also recommend that gay men consider screening, as HPV lesions in the rectum might put one at increased risk for rectal cancers.

It is possible to transmit genital warts to someone's mouth, though it is rare, especially in people who are not immune compromised. Genital warts USUALLY occur in the genital and anorectal areas, and less frequently occur in the throat, mouth, and lips. Since transmission is possible, it is advisable that your partner's mouth and genital area do not come into contact with active warts.


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