The most frequent sexually transmitted infection is human papillomavirus (HPV). Nearly 80% of adults will have HPV at least once in their lives. The amazing thing is that most people do not even realize they have contracted HPV because it stays dormant and does not give off any symptoms.
An HPV-infected person could stay asymptomatic for months, years, or a lifetime after having sex for the first time. Every case differs based on the HPV strain and the person’s immune system.
Top 7 Myths Regarding HPV Dormancy
Do you want to know the absolute truth about how HPV becomes dormant? Here are the top seven myths about HPV dormancy and the truth behind them:
1) HPV Infection stays inside your body forever
HPV dormancy could last for months or years while showing no recognizable symptoms.
According to research studies, most HPV-infected people’s immune systems can eradicate the virus after 1 to 2 years. Some people may even be able to eliminate their HPV infection in under one year, especially a younger person between 18 and 25.
2) HPV Infection has a fixed dormancy time limit
There is no fixed dormancy time limit for an HPV-infected person. Each person will experience a different length of HPV dormancy, ranging from a couple of months to the end of their lives.
3) You can always expect symptoms from an HPV Infection
Most HPV-infected people never experience any symptoms because their immune systems eliminate the virus before it causes any problems for them.
Some HPV-infected people may experience symptoms if they have a weak immune system that is not healthy enough to fight off the virus quickly. A weak immune system can be attributed to a lack of exercise, increased stress, poor nutrition, certain medications, and some other immune-suppressing factors and lifestyle habits.
The worst-case scenario is contracting a high-risk HPV strain, such as HPV-16 or HPV-18. Even though there are more than 100 HPV strains, most do not cause any symptoms. But some high-risk HPV strains like HPV-16 and HPV-18 have been known to cause certain cancer types, such as cervical cancer. Your immune system may be unable to fight these HPV strains, even if it is healthy. But if you get tested early, you can receive treatment to help your immune system fight it off.
Also, you should remember that an infected person can still transmit their HPV infection to others, even if it is a low-risk HPV strain with no symptoms experienced. That is why you should get vaccinated as soon as possible.
4) HPV reinfection is not possible because the immune system has built antibodies to fight it off
No, because the immune system only fights off a single HPV strain at a time. Since there are more than 100 HPV strains, the immune system treats an infection from each HPV strain differently. So, you could experience symptoms from an HPV reinfection even if you didn’t experience symptoms during your first HPV infection.
5) HPV-positive test results indicate your long-term partner has been cheating on you
Most people find out they have an HPV infection after taking an HPV test, pap smear, or both. If your HPV test returned positive or your pap smear test showed abnormal cervical cell growth, it usually means you have an HPV infection.
But what if you have been in a committed relationship for many months or years? Does an HPV-positive test mean your partner cheated on you with an HPV-infected person and then transmitted the virus to you? That is one possibility but not necessarily the reality.
You could have contracted HPV from a different partner many years ago, and the virus remained dormant in your body the whole time. However, if the virus stops being dormant, you could suddenly see one or more symptoms occurring without recently being infected.
For this reason, your cervical cells may not experience abnormalities until many years after contracting HPV. That would explain the abnormalities found on your pap smear results.
6) Condoms Prevent HPV Transmission
Condoms are a great way to prevent HPV transmission during sexual activity, but they won’t give you 100% guaranteed protection.
Remember that HPV transmission occurs from intimate skin-to-skin contact rather than from intercourse. Since only a small area of genital skin gets covered by a condom, the other regions of genital skin are still susceptible to the virus during sex.
7) Only Women can get an HPV Infection
Men and women can get an HPV infection and spread it to other people during sex. They can even get cancer or genital warts from contracting high-risk HPV infections.
However, women usually find out about their HPV infections before men because they get screened for cervical cancer by their doctors. Men do not usually get HPV tests unless they notice visible symptoms like genital warts or cancer-related symptoms.
HPV can cause many different types of cancers in men and women, such as cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, penile cancer, anal cancer, vulvar cancer, and oropharyngeal cancer.
Men and women should both get their HPV vaccines as soon as possible. Talk to your doctor to discuss your situation and whether you’re old or young enough to benefit from the HPV vaccine.