You may have received the results that your cervical smear test detected HPV and we are often asked how to discuss this result with a partner.  It can be a difficult discussion to have so we thought we’d help provide a few facts to support you in that discussion as it is a topic that can be a cause for anxiety and unnecessary apportionment of blame. 

What is HPV?

First of all, HPV is common! HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus.  It is in fact a ‘family’ of viruses of which there are over 200 different ‘members’, also referred to as ‘strains’.  You don’t have to have sex to pick up HPV, in fact, it can be passed on through any intimate skin-to-skin contact.  Most HPV infections are short-lived, don’t cause any symptoms and go away on their own, but some, depending on the type of strain, can cause problems.  There are ‘high risk’ strains that can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, mouth, throat, and anus, as well as ‘low risk strains’ that cause less serious conditions such as warts on the hands, feet and genital areas.  

Did you know that genital warts are the most commonly diagnosed viral sexually transmitted infection in the UK?  They are not serious or life-threatening but can be a nuisance!

Did you know that studies of the HPV infection, show that 40% of females will pick up HPV within 2 years of their first sexual debut! We know this because we can check for HPV when females have cervical screening tests.  There is currently no reliable test to detect HPV in men.  This is a very important fact to aid your discussion!  As there is no test for men, there is currently no way of knowing if your male partner has the infection, so there are absolutely no grounds for apportioning any form of blame.

Some ask how long they or their partner could have had the HPV infection.  Good question!  Unfortunately, this is impossible to answer as the virus can remain in the body without causing any problems for many years.  On the other hand, it can be cleared quite quickly by the immune system.

So, what happens now?

Can it be treated?  

There is no reliable treatment that is known to completely get rid of HPV.  The good news is that the virus disappears spontaneously in most men and women over time, so the presence of HPV does not mean you will get cancer.  In fact, around 70% of new infections will clear within one year and approximately 90% will clear within two years.  In some cases, however, HPV can persist, called ‘persistent infection’ and can cause ‘changes’ in the cells of the cervix.  These ‘changes’ are referred to as ‘dyskaryosis’ and graded 1 to 3.  

To decide whether you need treatment for these changes, a colposcopy examination will be carried out to investigate the cervix in detail.  If you do need treatment following colposcopy it is carried out as an outpatient and under local anaesthetic. The area where cell changes have occurred will be removed from the cervix and the treatment is nearly always 100 per cent successful.

Can I pass it onto my partner?

It is always important to practice safe sex through the correct and consistent use of a male or female condom.  This will help reduce the risk of passing on HPV. However, it is important to bear in mind that the virus might have been present for many years before it was picked up, therefore, it may have been passed on before you start using condoms or your partner may have already had it, so it is difficult to give specific advice about this.  Furthermore, even with condom use there are still areas of unprotected skin so condoms may not offer full protection against HPV.

We hope this information proves useful.  Remember, if your smear test detected HPV you can always book a free 10-min chat with us should you have any queries. Just visit: https://2meclinic.com/book-online/

References:

For more information about the Human Papillomavirus visit: https://www.jostrust.org.uk/information/hpv/what-is-hpv

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