The question of whether human papillomavirus can go away on its own has been discussed quite a bit here on EmpowHer. HPV is a virus that infects the skin and genitals. Some high-risk types have been linked to cancers of the cervix, vagina, penis, anus, mouth and throat.
An HPV infection can clear, meaning you no longer test positive. However, the virus can remain present but dormant in your system. It may not go away entirely.
According to this Harvard Medical School clinical review:
“The observation that HPV prevalence has two peaks—women under 30 years and those in their mid-50s—has led to the concept of HPV latency with later reactivation of infection. According to this hypothesis, HPV infections can be dormant in patients with normal immunity but be reactivated at a later age. Women with latent infections will have a negative HPV test.”
HPV test results can change from positive to negative within 1 to 2 years after initially testing positive as the body clears the infection. After that time, a woman may test negative but a woman’s immune system may not be able to suppress the virus from becoming active again.
Currently, there is no routine test for men. “However, some doctors are urging anal Pap tests for gay and bisexual men, who are at higher risk of anal cancer caused by HPV. In an anal Pap test, the doctor collects cells from the anus, and then has them checked for abnormalities in a lab,” wrote WebMD.(6)
Here are some other HPV facts to help you understand more about the virus:
- It is estimated that 75 percent of reproductive-age men and women have been infected with one or more types of HPV virus.(1,5)
- An estimated 6 million new infections occur each year, and as many as 20 million Americans are infected with the genital form of the virus.(1)
- There are over 200 strains of HPV. About 40 are spread by sexual contact.