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WARTS ON GENITALS
Nov 18, 1996

Hie, I was recently tested for HIV at 5 and a half months after the possible exposure date, which came back a clean negative. I was told by Dr John Gallant that there was no need for me to be tested again at 6 months ie in 2 weeks time. I would just like to know how long the bumpy coliflowers bumps caused by HPV take to appear on the penis. Can warts kill?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question.

It can take the HIV antibody test up to 6 months to show positive in an infected person. However, realistically speaking, the chances that the test won't pick up the infection at 5 1/2 months, but will at 6 months, are extremely low. A few days, this many months after exposure, won't make any significant difference as far as the accuracy of the test is concerned. However, the sooner you take the test after an exposure, the less accurate the test becomes. At 6 months, the tests are more than 99% accurate, and that's as good as any test in medicine could ever be. So at 5 1/2 months, your test is considered very accurate.

Genital warts are caused by various strains of a virus called "Human Papilloma Virus", also known as HPV. This is an incurable infection, and is one of the more common Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's). HPV could be a very serious infection.

Genital warts can be found on the penis, vagina, and rectum. They are transmitted by direct mucous membrane to mucous membrane contact (genital to genital contact, and genital to rectum contact). Physical contact with the warts can lead to infection. When the warts appear, they can have various appearances. They can resemble little "bumps", but can also resemble fleshy tumors, and they may have a cauliflower appearance to them. Over time, the warts can increase in size. Diagnosis is most often by visual diagnosis, and it can be confirmed by a biopsy (taking a piece of tissue from the warts and looking at it under a microscope). As you might imagine, these warts are very unsightly, and very embarrassing for the person whose got them. These warts can start appearing several weeks or months after infection.

Treatment of the warts can vary from case to case, and can ONLY be done by your physician. Treatment options consist of burning them off, freezing them off, putting acid on them (Trichloroacetic Acid [TCA]), putting chemicals on them (Podophyllin or Podofilox), and even surgical removal. In rare cases, tr eatment may involve Alpha Interferon and other treatments. It often takes several treatments to remove the warts. I must emphasize here that treatments only remove the growths themselves, not the underlying HPV infection. Therefore, even after treatments, the warts may grow back again and again and again. And lets face it....having warts burned off, frozen off, and putting acids and chemicals on your genital area and anal area isn't a pleasant experience.

The most scary aspect of HPV infection is that certain strains of this virus are linked to various forms of cancer. HPV is now linked to cancers of the penis, anus, and especially cervical cancer in women. So although the warts themselves may not be life-threatening, the cancers associated with certain strains of HPV, can be. In fact HPV can sometimes be detected on a pap smear in women. The fact that HPV is linked to certain types of cancer makes this a very serious disease. Luckily, not all persons with HPV will get cancer, but in those who do, it can be a life-threatening disease, especially if it's not diagnosed early.

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



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