Question

I am 23, gay, and have been in a long term, monogamous relationship with my partner for nearly three years. We have exclusively unprotected sex.

I was puzzled when my partner, who is significantly older than I am, informed me recently that he had some genital warts removed by his dermatologist. He claims that he first got them about 10 years ago from a previous girlfriend.

I did a self-examination recently and discovered what I believe to be anal warts. My question is: should I worry about my partner's fidelity, or accept his explanation that genital warts--when previously contracted--can flare back up at any time, even 10 years later? Thanks for your time and advice.

Answer

When one is infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that can cause genital warts, they are theroetically infected with the virus for life. It's possible that treatment of the warts could remove a sufficient amount of virus to thwart future outbreaks, but this is a difficult task to accomplish since there is no way to guarantee complete removal of virus. People who are infected with HPV can have it for years and not have any outbreaks, have outbreaks periodically, or have a more severe course (this is ususally true only for people who are immunocompromised).

Since it is possible that your partner had been previously infected with HPV and just recently had an outbreak, it is impossible to tell whether or not he has been monogamous with you. This is difficult territory to navigate with your partner, so I encourage you to talk it out with him and seek professional guidance if you reach an impasse.

It's important that you have an examination and treatment if you are indeed experiencing an outbreak of anal warts; try not to delay. Treatment is important since it can relieve the discomfort and help prevent future outbreaks and transmission.

RMK