1. Health

Should You Tell Your Partner If You Have HPV?

By October 8, 2009

Recently, a reader posted a question about whether you should tell your partner if you have HPV. HPV is a common virus with serious health consequences, but is it so common that we underestimate the health effects? I spoke to a group recently who had mixed feelings about telling their partner. Here are some of the responses:

"It's not like it AIDS. My business is my business."

"Absolutely! Your partner has a right to know if you have a illness."

"It's too embarrassing. I would die before I told my girlfriend."

Some felt honesty was the best policy, but a strong majority felt it would be too awkward to tell their partner. What would you do?

Poll: Should You Tell Your Partner that You Have HPV?

More About HPV

Comments
February 3, 2008 at 5:28 am
(1) GENITAL WARTS LOOK LIKE says:

If you’ve never before had or never before even heard about genital warts, then you won’t know what genital warts look like. This could of course, all be for the good. If they aren’t on you, and sometimes even when they are, genital warts can be a frightening sight to those of faint stomachs. In other words, they’re not a pretty sight to behold, but they are unfortunately a fact of life, especially in this day and age when sexually transmitted diseases are becoming more and more common.

If this is your worry and you’re afraid that you might have genital warts but are too embarrassed to see your doctor, you might first want to find out what genital warts look like.

March 24, 2008 at 3:58 pm
(2) OntheFence says:

This is something I’m still not sure about– there are more gray areas here and this is not the same as, say, telling someone you have Herpes. Concerning low-risk HPV (genital warts strain), I think absolutely you must tell a potential sexual partner that you have or recently had an outbreak as this is very contagious.

But high-risk HPV is a bit different and affects the sexes divergently. Women can develop cervical cancer from this strain whereas men are not typically affected by this (yes, I know that it can cause penile and anal cancers, but these are pretty rare). If most sexually active adults will contract HPV at some point in their lives, how does telling a male partner that one is infected with the high-risk type going to change anything? I understand this is more an ethical/honesty call more than anything, but in the long run, I’m not sure I see what the point is in telling heterosexual male partners that one has high-risk HPV. Also, how does this woman not know if her potential male partner already has high-risk HPV if there are no tests for men? I feel like if you’re to engage in sexual activity, it’s safest to assume that the person you’re going to be with already has HPV. This is because there are no tests for men, so how are women going to know that their future partners don’t already have (at least high risk) HPV? I know this may be a bit of a negative outlook, but this *is* the most common STI in the world and is a marker for having had sex at some point.

That said, I do believe honesty in relationships is important and going through abnormal paps, tests, etc, is something you might want to share with your partner as they can be there in a supportive sense. So this is why I’m still on the fence about this question — part of me thinks it’s imperative that you tell partner so you can have an honest relationship, but at the same time HPV is quite a manageable virus and MOST sexually active people have/had/will have it, so is there a point in telling them? Difficult call, what do others think?

September 11, 2008 at 11:11 pm
(3) BE VERY CAREFUL! says:

I was just diagonsed with genital warts, and yes I told my former sexual partner. I know he gave it to me because he was the only man that I had been having an active sexual relationship for almost four years. he was shocked at first, and I expalined to him what it was. i told him that there was no cure and he could pass this on to his next partner. I adviced him that there was no test for hpv on men(very sad fact) I have slept with another man since I ended my relationship, and now I must suck it and tell him the bad news( we don’t use condoms) I have taken std test and they always came back negative, I really thought that I was clean, I was very wrong. It’s sad that most men carry HPV and can do nothing about it! it seems std’s are a normal part of life( very nasty in my book) what kind of society are we turning into. I was never the girl that went around the block. It just takes “one” person to give you this for life! I’m a very private person and this is very dificult for me to reveal to anyone. you can not prevent HPV that caused warts even if you use a condom, it’s skin to skin contact! My last partner was shocked, but I believe he will be fine while I suffer with the thought of this virus in my body!

November 13, 2008 at 2:06 pm
(4) Best intentions says:

I was in a long term relationship through most of my college years, and we both decided to follow our careers instead of a relationship. I was not monogamous in the first initial stages of our relationship and was tested shortly after to make sure I wouldn’t affect my partner. All results came back clean.
Not long after separation, I got a call from her stating that she was a high risk HPV carrier. Since she was in a long term relationship, she didn’t receive an annual pap exam. Apparently she was carrying HPV for over a year before she found out. Now I feel like a dirt-bag thinking I am the one who passed it because of my infidelity. Most of the sites I’ve read say it isn’t that big of a deal, however, what my previous partner has gone through is terrifying. They’ve had to freeze her Cervix several times, remove some cells for testing, give her creams, and because of this she wasn’t able to be in the water at all this summer. So great I ruined her summer…. And now she has the fear of not being able to have children because if they remove too much of the cervix, that causes the inability to give birth…. This is indescribably terrifying for me and I can’t imagine how scared she is.
I got tested, was clean, and thought everything was alright. Now this… It is very disheartening. I thought I was being responsible and safe. I say tell your partners no matter what. Because the risk just isn’t worth it. Who are you to negatively affect the quality of someones life? Please, for the people who are suffering because of it just tell your partners make sure they get checked.

February 13, 2009 at 5:04 pm
(5) Keep it to yourself!!!! says:

While reading your posting yesterday, I sort of developed this conscious about not telling someone that I had slept with that I had tested positive for HPV abt 10 years ago. I have never had herpes or genital warts only cervical cancer, my partner never had anything though. As I frequently read about HPV, I came across your Blog yesterday; I felt like I really needed to tell this person what I might have exposed him to. I told him and I now know that it was a HUGE HUGE mistake. He freaked out; I can understand since I sort of did when I first found out about it but I had cervical cancer and funny thing is he has nothing. It was humiliating, scary and horrible. He made me feel like I was a dirty slut. I have had to deal with HPV for a long time and it has not been easy especially since I got it from my husband which I had been married to for about 15 years to. My suggestion is: unless you have herpes or genital warts keep it to yourself!!!!! A large fraction of sexually active people will be exposed to HPV and never develop anything. Men hardly ever develop a disease so Women should take care of themselves and never slack off on testing regularly. I believe we should treat this just like ‘on the fence’ said: Believe that everyone you are coming in contact with has HPV and make decisions from there on.

February 23, 2009 at 6:35 pm
(6) carrie says:

I just had a biopsy done of some irritated vulvar skin that has been bothering me for over a year now. I would occasionally have light spotting with intercourse, and itching associated. The biopsy came back saying I have HPV, low risk, condyloma cells, however, I have never as of yet (knock on something) had a genital wart out break. I was wondering what everyone else thinks about informing one’s future sexual partners. My doctor informed me that 8 out of 10 women in the US have it, and that since the virus is currently dormant I should not need to inform future sexual partners, especially since I will not be having unprotected sex any time soon until I am engaged or married. However, I myself am not sure, what does everyone think, should this be something I tell every prospective boyfriend before having sex, despite the fact that I don’t have warts(again knock on something, just the dormant virus. Thanks for your input!

March 9, 2009 at 9:52 pm
(7) no says:

I asked my doctor this as a former partner has recently developed genital warts. I was very worried as I am a teenager and was not looking forward to telling every prospective partner I have an STD. However, my doctor advised there is NO need to tell anyone, as long as there are no symptoms. This is because most adults will have the virus anyway, albeit unknowingly as so few develop symptoms. And even if warts do develop, they are easily treatable.

Although I do have a low-risk (visible) strain, I imagine if it was high-risk her advice may have been different.

March 19, 2009 at 1:17 pm
(8) Help says:

I have a high-risk for hpv & I wanted to know if I should tell my boyfriend we haven’t been together to long but have had sex ( always with condoms).& I wouldn’t know how to bring this subject up so early in the relationship :-/

June 19, 2009 at 10:55 am
(9) Arakolay says:

I just want to say that honesty is the best policy…that doctor that is saying that you should not say something is IRRESPONSIBLE……you can infect someone even if you are not showing symptoms…If that person cares for you he/she will understand!

June 22, 2009 at 2:36 am
(10) Nobdy wants to,,, but we NEED to! says:

No one wants to, but we really need to. I think not telling our partners are just a way of avoiding an uncomforable situation. Just because it’s more common, doesn’t make the consequences safe! I was just diagnosed with high-risk HPV (which was actually exposed from a date-rape situation) and although the body USUALLY clears the virus, it’s usually only with a strong immune system. I also have Ulcerative Colitis and do NOT have a strong immune system– so not only am I at a higher risk for cervical cancer, my risk for colon cancer has increased due to the extra infection I’m trying to fight off…

Now granted, in my situation, the information being told to me would not prevent my exposure(for the obvious date-rape situation)— but I wouldn’t dare put someone through the same feeling of discovering you have the STD. I would love to become more intimate with my currant monogamous relationship— but not until I’m sure he really loves me and I know accepts my situation. I’m not the old fashioned type of “no sex until marraige”– but I won’t risk exposing him and having him tell a girl down that he’s been exposed to the virus.

August 4, 2009 at 7:21 pm
(11) Complicated and CoNfUsEd! says:

I just found out i had HPV a year ago. I was so upset. I felt dirty/unclean. I’ve had STD’s before but they were cureable. Seven days of antibiotics and you’re back to normal. To now have a something that is not cureable is devastating. I have a child who is 5 years old. I think that HPV testing is done during and after the pregnancy and from what I recall the doctor never mentioned it. In a nutshell I believe I transmitted this infection from my childs father whom I suspect was cheating on me like crazy. I’m confused about staying in the relationship. I figure I might as well stay with him since he already has it versus breaking up with him and begining a new relationship with someone I would be too embarrased to tell. It’s funny how STD’s are viewed as someone who sleeps around. But the truth is when you have unprotected sex you are sleeping with all their prior partners and the domino effect begins…SAD but TRUE! If I could rewind the hands of time I would stock up on pleasure toys and call it a day!

October 7, 2009 at 11:37 pm
(12) Tell the truth says:

It’s sad when you take care of yourself and you don’t sleep around and you have only had two partners in life sexually and then all of a sudden 6 years of being celibate, they tell you you have HPV low risk, Condyloma when your test was negative in 2006 and now all of a sudden. Shouldn’t they had detected that earlier on and if you have never had any STD’s in life, I think it’s real weird. Tell your partners the truth will set you free, my ex partner was a dirty cop who slept around with just about every woman he could get his hand on and he abused me and lied to me about his situation, so I believe I got it from him, we were together 7 yrs and I’m suffering terribly after learning this information. Please tell the truth

October 16, 2009 at 5:19 am
(13) HPV low-risk sufferer says:

I cannot understand some of these opinions. Particularly, the suggestion that you should tell a new partner that you have at some stage had the warts virus even if you have no symptoms, but that it is ok to not tell a partner you have high-risk HPV. Ok, so if you pass on high-risk HPV there will be no adverse effects for his health, but what about the next woman he sleeps with????? Surely the risk of passing on cancer is far more serious than the risk of passing on stupid little warts that have absolutely no side-effects besides being annoying? Let’s consider an analogy… someone with coldsores… Do you think that before they kiss ANYONE new, they bother to stop and think, “Should I tell them I get coldsores?” This is a herpes strain, and can, like HPV, lie dormant in the body. You can pass on this strain without having an actual visible coldsore. And they look just as unsightly as genital warts, if not worse, and EVERYONE can see them, not just your sexual partner. What’s worse – if a coldsore carrier gives someone oral sex, there is the risk of giving them genital herpes. But does anyone say that EVERYONE with a coldsore MUST tell EVERY new partner that they carry the virus before kissing them or having oral sex?? I don’t think so! As for the doctor being “IRRESPONSIBLE” to tell that person they don’t need to tell new partners so long as they have no symptoms, well, I have asked several doctors the same question, and they have all given me the exact same answer. I don’t think they are all being irresponsible. I think it is more likely that HPV is taken too seriously. But reading the online comments just makes me crazy and makes me doubt my own common sense about this issue. I don’t want to do the “wrong” thing. Due to comments I have read online in the past nine months since being diagnosed, I have not had sexual contact with anyone. I told one guy, who I was comfortable with, and he was ok about it, but then on the day we were going to hook up I discovered a new wart (hadn’t had one for two or three months) so I told him as I didn’t want to expose him, and he thanked me for my honestly and declined. So… I’m almost a born again virgin. Great.

November 13, 2009 at 11:15 am
(14) danielle petit says:

if people don’t get over the embarrassment of having HPV it’s going to keep spreading (80% of young people have this) it’s time people face up to the issue and work together for awareness. wouldn’t you want to know if someone you were intimate with had a disease that you hadn’t contracted YET, it’s the right to know people that can save!

November 29, 2009 at 10:00 am
(15) BIRD says:

Wow i cant believe im on this side of the wall . i began a relationship with my girlfriend all was perfect about a month in to it she tells me she has HPV she told me not to worry because we where going to be with each other . well we no longer together . i went to the doc and he said you now have GENITAL WARTS its me now im one of those people you always see in those commercials hope im going to that happy. tell tell tell your partners .

December 15, 2009 at 2:23 am
(16) scared & ashamed says:

im 18 years old, and have been diagnosed with HPV and genital warts which only broke out a few times, and have not come back since. latley i have been having extreme pain in my ovaries, and what fees like my cervix. im scared that i have cancer,,also i have had unprotected sex with my semi new boyfriend, and dont know how to tell him that i have passed it to him. im scared. and completly embarrassed and ashamed because i know my ex bf got a small case of warts too..which means i have the type which is visible for men too. i suppose its inevitable that i tell him. i dont feel like he will want to be with me anymore if he finds out that i think i have cancer. how do you know what type of hpv you have?my doctor did not specify, or suggest i come in for regular paps. i think awareness for hpv needs to be raised, because i learned about all the nasty diseases in heath, but not about this one which is so common. any thoughts?

December 26, 2009 at 3:26 pm
(17) KAP says:

I’ve had HPV genital warts for a year I recently started dating some one for the pass two months I really like him, decided I was going to have sex with him untill we have a talk about me being infected. I havent talked about it to him yet but I feel like i soon should. I dont know how to get that conversation started I mean we havent been dating very long. He’s a virgin I would really like to avoid scaring him a way you think I should wait longer to have this talk or get it out of the way?

January 1, 2010 at 9:47 am
(18) Tina says:

This disease is not a joke and not something that should be kept from ANYONE. I feel even if you do not have the visible signs of warts and just the HPV Virus it’s still common decency to tell the one you are with or going to be with that you have the disease. If we don’t start somewhere with the truth how the hell is this DISEASE and yes it’s a devistating disease even if you are not very active or are, if we don’t start educating the ones we love now this can eventually kill women when it develops into cervical cancer.
It’s not right to say nothing knowing and most men and women do not even know they have it when they pass it along but clearly knowing you tested positive and not saying a word is wrong and only continues the cycle of really devistating results and health complications because of selfish behavior. If the one you are with can’t handle what you have then maybe they where not for you to begin with.

January 4, 2010 at 5:30 am
(19) Nat says:

My first girlfriend, We were is a relationship with a for 3 years. At around the 2 year mark she cheated on me, After a while we got back together, and soon after she was diagnosed with HPV. The news wasn’t much of a shock to me, I figured I loved this girl, we were going to be together forever and if I were to develope a few measly warts it wasn’t going to be the end of the world to me.

What bugged me most was that after telling me the news she called everyone one of her friends and told them how I took the “news”. (This, just like many other times of disrespect and dishonesty are the reasons why we’re not together anymore).

We just broke up a month ago. We always had protected sex before and after she was diagnosed and I’ve recently noticed a few bumps on my scrotum and one on my upper lip. Its a scary thought to know i may have contracted it from her, but the only real down fall for me will be finding another girl who is ok with it.

I think the main thing about HPV is that alot of people dont really know anything about it. When you first hear warts, you think herpes, or cancer.

One of the first posts said 8/10 women have a stran of HPV. I believe because this being such a widespread STD as it is. There should be more information on it, maybe even commercials.

Ultimatly I believe HPV isn’t one of your biggest worries *As long as your partner knows about it*. When you do tell them, I’m sure if they truely love you they will stay just as I did with my girlfriend when I found out.

When it comes to telling your partner I think it’s a must. This is one of those things that if your not aware of it, It may lead down the road of cancer. If we know about it prior maybe we can prevent it by taking better care of ourselves in the early stages of infection.

January 13, 2010 at 11:39 pm
(20) Confused says:

I found out that I had HPV 6 years ago. It was really shocking for me since I had only been with one person. It was difficult to decide what to do because he didn’t know he had it or when he got it. Since, I have had t abnormal pap smears and it has been scary. My doctors kept a close eye on me and I have had regular paps for the past 3 years. I am no longer with the guy I contracted it from and I didn’t know how to approach another relationship. I don’t know how or when to reveal this information. I feel like I have to because I don’t want to pass it on to anyone else, but I also don’t want to scare everyone away. I don’t know what to do?

January 20, 2010 at 8:04 pm
(21) Ash says:

I was told I may have HPV about two years ago when I saw a doctor for bumps down there. I had done my research before going in so I knew what was going to be said. I, yes me, had genital warts. I was in a serious relationship for a year and a half and about three months after we ended it is when I started to notice the bumps. I felt so dirty and used. I was treated with a cream I could apply myself and the bumps vanished. Now two years later I have some again. I feel dirty and horrible all over again. If the guy had only said something about having the HPV virus. I am in a serious relationship now and am worried that my partner is not going to accept this when I tell him about it. I feel torn but I think he has the right to know so he can get checked out also. Wish me luck!

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