Are you worried about the risks of kissing someone infected with human papillomavirus (HPV)? Traditionally, people transmit HPV through sexual activities like oral sex, vaginal sex, and anal sex. Since oral sex is one of the ways to transmit HPV, you may worry that intense kissing and exchanging saliva fluids could result in an HPV infection too.
The truth is that doctors do not know for sure. All the medical research studies on this topic have not found a direct link between HPV infections and kissing. However, the safest thing to do would be to take precautions. If you know your partner has an HPV infection, perhaps you should think twice before kissing them. Let’s dive a little deeper into this topic to help you understand it better.
HPV & Kissing – Current Medical Research Studies
A few medical research studies have found evidence of the potential of HPV transmission through open-mouth kissing. But this evidence is inconclusive and too vague to give a definitive answer to whether kissing causes HPV transmission.
In a 2014 medical study, researchers evaluated approximately 222 straight couples who performed oral sex and deep kissing on each other. The researchers wanted to see which sexual or intimate acts transmitted the virus the most. They found that individuals had a greater chance of contracting oral HPV if their partners had oral HPV already. But unfortunately, the researchers couldn’t determine if oral sex or deep kissing was the cause of the transmissions.
The University of Michigan conducted another medical study into this connection in 2022. Researchers used oral swabs on approximately 392 adults actively engaging in sex. They found adults with at least two deep kissing partners had double the risk of contracting oral HPV compared to adults with no more than one deep kissing partner. But since the adult participants were also having sexual intercourse, there’s no way to know with certainty how HPV was transmitted.
Most medical research studies into kissing and HPV come up with similar results. After all, how do you force HPV-infected couples to only deep kiss each other and not perform any other sexual acts? They are only human, after all.
80% Risk of HPV Infections Are from Sex
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that HPV will infect roughly 80% of all sexually active people during their lifetimes. Being sexually active means engaging in any form of sex, such as oral, vagina, or anal. However, the question of whether regular kissing or deep kissing can transmit HPV is still inconclusive. You can assume the answer is… maybe.
Please Note: Some studies have shown that prolonged close contact with an infected partner during sex can also transmit HPV in some cases. It doesn’t even matter if the infected partner is asymptomatic because they can still transmit the virus to you through skin contact.
Will You Get Cancer from HPV?
Certain kinds of HPV have been shown to cause cancer in some people, such as cervical cancer. Fortunately, most HPV infections are temporary and don’t lead to cancer. As a result, less than 1% of HPV-infected people get cancer.
Best Ways to Prevent HPV Infections
Safe sex is crucial if you want to reduce the risk of an HPV Infection. For instance, try limiting how many active sexual partners you have at any one time. Next, ensure you or your partner wears a condom during sex to prevent the transmission of HPV or other sexually transmitted infections (STI). These are simple ways to prevent HPV infections.
Talk to your partner about your STI concerns and various ways to practice safe sex. If they have already been infected with an STI like HPV, you need to know before having sex with them. Then you can decide if you wish to risk infection by having sex with them.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends an HPV vaccine for children between ages 11 and 12 and all adults under 26 years old who never received the vaccine before. Adults between 27 and 45 should consult with their primary care physician about whether the HPV vaccine is a good idea for them to take.
The primary HPV vaccine recommended is Gardasil 9. Ask your doctor about it the next time you meet for a checkup session.
Are you experiencing genital itching or lumps? If so, these are the most common symptoms of HPV. Contact your primary care physician to get tested for HPV or other STIs. The sooner you receive your diagnosis, the sooner you can take the appropriate steps to treat your infection and reduce the symptoms.
Incidence and Clearance of Oral and Cervicogenital HPV Infection: Longitudinal Analysis of the MHOC Cohort Study