I recently was diagnosed with having HPV due to the appearance of a wart on my anus. I want to know how serious this is, is it necessary to have it removed and what are the risks regarding future anal and vaginal sex?
Receiving a diagnosis of HPV can be scary, especially in the beginning when you may not have all the facts. But good on you for asking all the important questions! According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, with an estimated 79 million American’s currently being infected. There are many different strains, and although some strains can be serious (some can lead to cancer), the types that cause genital warts do not! Treatment and/or removal of warts 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 in 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. All treatment plans must be prescribed by a knowledgeable health care professional who has experience with STIs. As far as future vaginal and anal sex go, that is ultimately up to you and your partner(s). Consideration should be given to whether or not sex becomes uncomfortable to you in anyway because of the wart(s), and transmission to someone else. Also, if you have been diagnosed with HPV, it’s a very good idea to be screened for all other STIs as well! Although consistent condom use can help with transmission, 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). It is important to be honest and upfront with all sexual partners ahead of time so that they may consider their risk. 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.
Danielle LeBlanc, RN
Danielle is a Registered Nurse who 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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