HPV and Men – originally posted January 2008

What is HPV?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease that infects the genital area of both men and women (including the skin on and around the anus). Over half of the men in the United States will have HPV at some time in their lives.  Often the virus clears up on its own without a health problem but, depending on the strain of HPV, it can cause genital or anal warts.  Some strains of HPV can also cause abnormal changes in cells which can become precancerous and result in cancer of the penis or anus. HIV positive men are more likely to get severe and prolonged cases of genital warts which may be resistant to treatment. 

How is HPV spread?

HPV is passed through vaginal or anal intercourse but can also be spread through simple skin to skin contact.  Because HPV infections often don’t have symptoms, they can be passed on unknowingly. 

What are the symptoms?

Genital warts are the first symptoms seen with low-risk strains of HPV infections.  They are soft, raised growths that are usually painless.  These lesions can also appear in the mouth and throat, although this is rare.  Warts usually take 3 weeks to 6 months to appear after exposure but, in some cases, can also take years. 

What can I do?    

If you are diagnosed with HPV, it is important to tell your sexual partner(s).  Transmission of HPV can be minimized by finding alternative ways to express intimacy and avoiding contact with a wart.  Condoms are also effective for preventing infection with HPV if they are used correctly and consistently.  However, genital warts not covered by a condom can still transmit the virus 

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