How to Speak with Your Partner About HPV

It might be very difficult for you to talk to your partner about HPV, especially if you have recently discovered that you have it. Even if you don’t have HPV, you might be hesitant to talk to your partner about sexual and medical histories. Many people are embarrassed to talk about their sexual history, or they may be uncomfortable hearing about the sexual past of their partner.

However, these discussions are important and should not be put off. Here are some best practices for talking to your partner about HPV.

Talk to your partner before you have sex for the first time.

Experts at Planned Parenthood and the American Public Health Association recommend that you talk to your partner about sexual and medical histories before you have sex for the first time. We all know that doesn’t always happen. If you have already had sex with your partner, it isn’t too late to talk about HPV and other STDs.

You should know the facts about HPV yourself before you sit down to talk to your partner. According to the CDC, most people with HPV never know they have it. There is no testing available for HPV in men, and HPV testing in women is only done during cervical cancer screening.

There are specific things you should ask your partner, including whether or not they have ever had HPV or if they have had an HPV vaccination. Ask them if they have ever been with someone who had a positive HPV test or an abnormal pap test result. Ask them also if they have ever had genital warts, which is one of the only visible symptoms of HPV. You should also talk about other STDs while you’re at it.

Be kind and considerate in your discussions about sexual history.

Choose the right time to have your discussion about HPV and STDs with your partner. It should be during a time in which neither of you is stressed. Create a relaxing atmosphere, and try to lead into the conversation rather than bombarding them with questions.

Talking about sexual history can give you and your partner a deeper connection, but only if you don’t allow jealousy or shame to enter into the equation. A discussion about HPV must include a discussion of past partners, especially when those partners were women.

Don’t feel obligated to talk about every sexual experience or share numbers. The number of people that your partner has had sex with in the past is of little importance and doesn’t really tell you anything about their medical history. It is only necessary to discuss the partners with whom there may have been a risk of HPV.

Be straightforward with your partner if you have HPV.

Many women learn they have HPV when they receive an abnormal pap test result, and Healthline states that some types of HPV can remain undetected for decades. You need to be straightforward with your partner if you learn that you have HPV after you have been sexually active with them. Don’t put off the conversation, because it is important that you discuss how to have safe sex going forward.

Arm yourself with facts about HPV before you have this discussion. Your partner is certain to have lots of questions. You might opt to have the conversation with your partner and medical provider together.

Discuss the pros and cons of HPV vaccination.

The CDC informs the public that adults can receive the HPV vaccination, not just teens. The HPV vaccination is safe for most teens and adults from age 11 to age 45. However, some people should avoid the HPV vaccination. People with an allergy to yeast should not have the vaccine. Keep in mind that getting the HPV vaccination prevents HPV infections, but if you have HPV and are unaware of it the vaccination may not clear the infection. It is best to talk to your individual health providers to determine if you and/or your partner should be vaccinated against HPV.

These conversations need not be difficult. Healthy relationships founded on trust can easily weather discussions of sexual and medical history. Be open, honest, and above all, safe.


HPV and HPV Testing. American Cancer Society.

Genital HPV Infection – Basic Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know. CDC.

How to talk to your partner about STDs. The Nation’s Health by The American Public Health Association.

Can HPV Be Dormant? Healthline.