If you haven’t gotten the HPV vaccine and you’re sexually active, the odds aren’t good for avoiding HPV. In fact, most unvaccinated individuals will get it at some point in their life. That may sound a bit scary, but there’s some good news as well. Most types of the virus don’t cause any symptoms, and the body typically suppresses the virus on its own. There is no cure for HPV, but if you become infected with a strain that persists, there may be ways to treat the health problems it causes.
How Long Does It Take for HPV to Go Away?
In most cases, your body’s immune system will be able to suppress the infection. According to the CDC, the vast majority (over 90%) of new HPV infections become undetectable within just two years. In fact, HPV often disappears from Pap test results within six months of becoming infected.
Because HPV usually doesn’t cause any symptoms, you could get HPV and suppress the infection without even realizing it. However, the virus can still be spread to other people even if you don’t have any noticeable symptoms, so it’s important to practice safe sex by using condoms.
If your infection doesn’t go away within two years, does HPV stay forever? Not necessarily. When the virus is dormant, it won’t cause any health issues. However, there is a chance you could get a persistent infection that your body isn’t able to suppress. These types of HPV infections may cause genital warts or lead to the development of cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, or throat.
Unfortunately, some of the most dangerous types of HPV are the ones that are less likely to be naturally suppressed by the body. For example, HPV-16 is more likely to persist and progress to cancer than other high-risk HPV types.
Women can be screened regularly for HPV to check for precancerous lesions often associated with persistent HPV types. There are no HPV tests for men, unfortunately, but HPV-related cancers are also less common in men.
How to Get Rid of HPV
While the search for an HPV cure is still ongoing, there are some promising studies focused on methods to help suppress HPV infections.
One Phase II clinical trial is researching the possible immunity-boosting effects of a supplement called AHCC, which may help with long-term suppression of the virus, including persistent high-risk HPV infections.
Another study is looking at photodynamic therapy to help suppress some of the most dangerous strains of HPV, including HPV-16. This method would require applying a light-sensitive medication to affected areas, then shining a specific wavelength of light on the drug to activate it.
Treatments are available for health issues related to HPV infections, such as genital warts or cancer. While they may not be able to get rid of your HPV, these treatments could help you to stay healthy despite having a persistent HPV infection.
- Chapter 5: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Treatment and Care: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016.
- Genital HPV Infection – Fact Sheet: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017.
- HPV and Men – Fact Sheet: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016.
- Effectiveness of Photodynamic Therapy in Elimination of HPV‐16 and HPV‐18 Associated with CIN I in Mexican Women: Wiley Online Library, 2017.
- Phase II Evaluation of AHCC for the Eradication of HPV Infections: U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2018.