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Lesbians, HPV, and genital warts
Oct 4, 1999

Hi Rick,

My partner has HPV and seems to be having a re-occurance of warts (for which she is being treated by OB/GYN). This is the first time she has had actual warts since I have been with her, though I understand that she has had the HPV virus. My question: do you have any information about how HPV is transmitted from woman-to-woman? The doc doesn't know, and I can't find any information on this (surprise, surprise!). Is this information in the same murky area of lesbian-lesbian transmission of HIV? Thanks for your help.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question. HPV, the virus that causes genital warts, is primarily transmitted through direct genital-to-genital contact, and direct genital-to-anal contact, with or without intercourse.

Lesbians and bisexual women can, and do, become infected with HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Between women, the biggest risk for HPV would be through direct genital-to-genital contact. This can occur if her warts are located externally on the outer portions of her vagina (such as the lips of the vagina), and her vagina comes into direct contact with your vagina (which can certainly occur during sex between women). If her warts are located internally (for example if they are near the cervix), then your risk would be greatly reduced and the chances of infection would be low. Technically speaking there may also be a risk by sharing sex toys, but as a general STD prevention rule, it is recommended that you wash the toy before it is shared.

The best way to protect yourself is simply to not come into direct contact with the growths on her body. Barrier protection (such as saran or plastic wrap) is another way to avoid direct exposure to the growths.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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