HAVING SEX WITH HPV: ASK C+S

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Dear @cyclesandsex,

Could you please post about HPV? I have recently been diagnosed with this and I’m finding it difficult to find any good information about it! I’m also really concerned about the fact that condoms may not always prevent transmission… How will I ever be able to have sex again!?

Love,                                                                             

#NeverHavingSexAgain

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Dear #NeverHavingSexAgain

Receiving a new HPV diagnosis can be super scary (!), especially in the beginning. Seeking out reliable information and asking questions (just like this!) are great first steps when it comes to getting know what this could mean for you, your body and your future sexual pleasure. The low-down: According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, with an estimated 80 million Americans currently being infected. There are many different strains, and although some strains can be serious (meaning that they have the potential to cause genital warts or cancer), the majority of them have no symptoms – which means many of us who have HPV don’t even know it! If the type of HPV you have includes warts (aka papillomas) you may choose to have them treated. Treatment and/or removal varies among individuals, with symptom relief being the main goal. If warts are numerous, painful, or bothersome in anyway, removal may be the best option. However, if warts are small, few in number, and/or non-bothersome, one may decide to forgo treatment given that many cases resolve on their own and treatment does not prevent transmission or recurrence. In most cases, our bodies will rid itself of the virus within about 2 years (yay!). However, one can be infected with more than one strain of HPV at one time! Treatment options typically include topical medicated ointments or cryotherapy using liquid nitrogen, where the wart is quickly frozen. This process may have to be repeated on a weekly basis for up to 4 rounds. HPV is also the leading cause of cervical dysplasia, or CD (a condition where abnormal or pre-cancerous cells grow in the lining of the cervix). For this reason, regular Pap smears are key (if you have a cervix), as they are the best way to screen for these early changes! For more on CD and HPV, visit cyclesandsex.com and type in search bar! Although consistent condom use can greatly reduce transmission, you are correct in that not ALL infected areas can be covered with a condom, therefore can still be passed from one person to another despite having had “protected” sex, as HPV can be spread through skin to skin contact (this includes transmission to the mouth/throat through kissing and licking of infected areas without barrier protection). It is important to be honest and upfront with all sexual partners ahead of time so that they may consider their risk. Also, if you have been diagnosed with HPV, it’s a very good idea to be screened for all other STIs as well! Lastly, the CDC does recommend a HPV vaccine (there are 3 different kinds) that is said to prevent becoming infected with the known strains of HPV that can cause cancer. If interested, please ask your healthcare provider.

All the best,

Danielle

Danielle (@fancymustard) is a Registered Nurse who is part of the C+S Team & has a passion for all things Sexual Health. She currently works in Nova Scotia, Canada and splits her time between the Sexually Transmitted Infections Clinic, Abortion Clinic, and caring for people in the community who have been diagnosed with HIV and Hepatitis C.

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CYCLES+SEX is not providing medical advice! Check in with your practitioner and use the above as a conversation starter to figure out what is best for you and your unique health history and situation.

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