Did you just find out you have HPV? One of the first things many newly diagnosed individuals wonder about is who they got the infection from. If you’ve been in a committed, monogamous relationship, you may be worried that getting HPV means cheating has occurred. However, that’s usually not the case due to the nature of the virus. Once you learn more about this sexually transmitted infection (STI), you’ll understand how HPV in monogamous relationships doesn’t prove that someone has been unfaithful.
How Common Is HPV?
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the U.S. It’s so common, in fact, that most sexually active men and women get at least one type of genital HPV at some point in their lives. Even people who are vaccinated can still get HPV since it only protects against certain strains of the virus.
How Long Can Someone Have HPV?
HPV latency is one of the most important things to understand regarding this STI.
Usually, the immune system is able to suppress the infection on its own. However, some persistent HPV types can remain dormant in the body for many years before reappearing. HPV persistence can continue for up to 10 to 15 years, often without producing any symptoms. Therefore, someone could potentially carry the virus for a decade or more without realizing it.
Does HPV Mean Cheating?
It can be upsetting to wonder, “I have HPV, does that mean my husband cheated?” or “My wife has HPV, did she cheat on me?” However, due to HPV’s potentially long latency period and how widespread HPV is, it can be incredibly difficult to determine the source of someone’s infection.
Even if you’ve been together for years, your partner may have become infected prior to that. If the two of you have been together for a while and neither of you were aware of an HPV diagnosis before, it’s hard to tell whether your partner gave it to you or if you gave it to your partner. While you may not be able to rule out infidelity, there’s no reason to trust your partner less because you found out you have HPV.
Encourage open and honest communication in your relationship to avoid conflict over your HPV diagnosis. In addition, you can use condoms to lower the risk of passing HPV to a partner.
- HPV and Cancer: National Cancer Institute, 2019.
- Chapter 5: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017.
- Genital HPV Infection – Fact Sheet: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017.
- I Have HPV. Does That Mean That My Husband Cheated on Me? Answering Women’s Questions About HPV: Wiley Online Library, 2013.
- Answering Patient Questions About HPV: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015.