Are you dating someone new? If so, you might be wondering how to broach the topic of your HPV status. Even though HPV is extremely common, it can feel scary to divulge your diagnosis to someone you care about. Use these tips to talk about HPV openly and honestly with a new partner.
Should I Tell My Partner I Have HPV?
Some people think that, because HPV is so common, there’s no reason to tell your partner that you have it. Nearly all sexually active people will get at least one type of HPV in their lifetime and most infections cause no symptoms or health issues, which creates the illusion that HPV is really no big deal.
However, telling a new partner you have HPV is a good way to foster honesty in a relationship. Most people want to know if someone they plan to have sex with has a sexually transmitted infection, even if that STI is typically harmless. It also can allow the other person to take steps to protect themselves, which is important considering that high-risk HPV types can potentially lead to cancer.
When to Bring It Up
Since HPV can spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact, it’s best to bring it up before the first time you have sex (including genital, oral, or anal sex). Talk to your partner when you have some time to discuss it in a relatively private setting, like when you’re on a walk together or hanging out at your house. This gives your partner the chance to ask questions and process the information you’re providing.
Avoid bringing up your HPV status when there’s isn’t time to talk, like right before you have to leave for work or an appointment. Don’t discuss it in a public place where they might feel self-conscious about asking questions, like when you’re out to dinner together. Make sure you talk about it face-to-face rather than over the phone or by text or email.
How to Say It
Let your partner know you want to share something personal because it affects them, too. Avoid being vague or talking around the issue, being sure to say “I have HPV” or “I was diagnosed with HPV.” Explain that HPV is very common and, in most cases, the body suppresses it naturally. Let your partner ask questions and answer them as honestly as possible.
The most important thing to remember is that telling someone you have HPV isn’t a confession. You don’t have to apologize for having HPV, especially since there’s a good chance your partner has also had HPV at some point. Instead, view this discussion as simply sharing important health information with someone you care about.
How to Avoid Spreading HPV
Finally, talk about the steps you can take to avoid transmitting HPV to your partner. Tell them that you’d like to use condoms to prevent the virus from spreading. Make sure they understand that condoms lower their risk of infection, but there’s still a chance they may get HPV if you have sex.
Dealing with HPV and new relationships doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you’re wondering how to tell a new partner you have HPV, use this guide to help walk you through the process. Having HPV is nothing to be ashamed of, and there are ways to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
- HPV and Cancer: National Cancer Institute, 2019.
- About HPV: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:, 2019.
- Chapter 5: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017.