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HPV and Genital Warts

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Let’s talk for a second about genital warts. It's an awkward subject, I know, but it’s also a major concern among sexually-active individuals in this country. Genital warts are caused by certain strains of HPV. We’ve all heard a lot about HPV in recent years, particularly due to the fact that it has been discovered as the leading cause of cervical cancer.

HPV stands for human papillomavirus, and approximately three quarters of sexually active adults will be infected with it at one point or another. Of the over 100 possible strains of HPV, 40 percent are capable of transmitting genital warts, and the most common culprits are HPV-6 and HPV-11. Thankfully, genital warts are categorized as benign lesions – meaning they are non-cancerous sores – so the strains of HPV that cause genital warts are considered to be low-risk.

The strains of HPV that do not lead to genital warts (the remaining 60 percent) can cause warts in other places on the body. For example, HPV-5 and HPV-8 have both been proven to contribute to skin conditions and skin cancer. However, sexually-transmitted HPV usually does not produce any warts or symptoms. Research is currently being done regarding the body’s ability to completely rid itself of an HPV infection.

The main thing to remember about HPV is that scientists are continually researching the pervasive virus and looking for ways to prevent its transmission. That’s good news for those looking to avoid genital warts, or any warts in general! But until a solution is found, there are several things you can do to prevent the development of genital warts as a result of HPV.

First of all, a vaccine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for men and women between nine and 26 years of age. Known as Gardasil, the vaccine guards against the transmission of the two most common causes of genital warts (HPV-6 and HPV-11) and also provides immunity against types 16 and 18.

Unlike other STDs, HPV is not spread through bodily fluids, but simply genital contact. So the best way to avoid genital warts is to use a condom; hormonal contraceptives will do nothing to protect you.

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EmpowHER Guest

I was brought up a very strict Catholic. And I mean VERY strict. I was not allowed to even have chaperoned "dates" with the opposite sex till I was 17. My first sexual encounter was at age 19, with my HS sweetheart. We were both virgins so much in love; but frankly not all that sure of what we were doing sexually speaking. Then we went our seperate ways. I met a European man in my early 20s and practiced safe sex using condoms. After several months, we were monogomous, I was and assumed he was too. I once asked him how many partners he'd had prior to me as he was almost 5 year older. He said 12. I was instantly aghast and intimidated considering my strict upbringing and. We had already begun to make love without condoms by that point and I was on the pill. We were about to move in together and saw a future together. I did not think much of this after some time. Then during a routine visit to my gynecologist I was tested positive for HPV. I also was given a (was it vinegar?) a sort of test on the vaginal skin, whereby I was also told I had genital warts even tho I couldnt see them. I was devastated. I called my european boyfriend in tears to tell him about my visit to the doctor. Nothing could have prepared me for this news. He and I of course knew it was not me, I was practically a virgin. We both knew my only sexual partner until that point had been also with a virgin. I was FURIOUS- shocked and absolutely livid. At age 24 having only had one partner - we were each others first then to have met my next boyfriend only to find out he had been with others &consequently passed what he had to onto me. I was warned about promiscuity. I held to passionately to the belief to abstinence until I met my true love who I anticipated marrying, remaining monogaomous with defined who I was, in fact. I said to the gyno "How horrible the 2nd man I have ever had sex with in life gives me an std" I was angry beyond repair. It was the most embittering experience Id ever had in love- before or since. We split. Turns out, I reconciled with my first love who chose no other lovers and wooed me back. We got married and stayed true to each other. He since has passed away and I have dated but not gone to bed with anyone. But now Im considering a sexual relationship with a man Ive fallen in love with- technically my 3rd sexual partner ever. Im almost 40. What do I say or do? I do belive obviously that promiscuity can make you very susceptible to STDs true. But as with what happened to me, sex with only one partner who happened to be a carrier is also possible. Im practically middle aged, was never promiscuous and so far slept with 2 men; one a virgin and the other was just the one time *unprotected*. The kind of emotional pain this has caused me all my life is the kind I could never get over. From my example it is SO easy to get infected even with merely one sexual act with one person, only the ONE time. Tragic. Especially considering my values, upbringing, and how I hold monogamy and abstinence until commitment so dear on a personal level. Especially now, Im frightened of what to say to my new love, how to approach the topic. Your thoughts and comments are welcome, especially from the medical community.

February 23, 2012 - 12:55pm
EmpowHER Guest

You said the best way to prevent genital warts is to use a condom. This is incorrect. The best way to prevent genital warts, or any STD for that matter, is to abstain from promiscuous sex with multiple partners.

April 8, 2011 - 6:09am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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