Men often have two kinds of questions or problems when they first hear about HPV: What are the risks for themselves, and how can they protect their partners?
Here are some common questions about HPV, which can help men better understand the disease.
Can men get infected with the HP virus?
Yes, men can infect themselves with human papillomavirus (HPV) just like women. This is done through intimate (genital) skin contact – usually during sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal).
However, HPV rarely causes serious health problems in men, especially if they have a healthy immune system.
How common is HPV infection in men?
HPV virus is common in both men and women. It is difficult to make a specific estimate of men because there is a lack of extensive research among men.
However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCs) and other health authorities estimate that more than half of men are infected with HPV at some point in their lives.
What are the symptoms of male infection with HP virus?
HPV viruses are usually asymptomatic. Even if the virus causes changes in skin cells, these changes are usually small and will not attract attention.
None of this is worth worrying about.
If HP virus causes obvious changes, the most common result is genital warts around anus or on penis, scrotum (testis), groin or thigh.
The appearance of these warts can be small flaky spots or obvious raised tumors.
Genital warts are not serious and can be treated. However, if the body’s immune system does not completely inhibit the virus, they will also relapse.
In rare cases, “high-risk” HPV types can lead to certain types of cancer, such as penile cancer or anal cancer (the latter mainly occurs in homosexual, bisexual or HIV-positive men).
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Do men have HPV testing?
At present, there is no officially approved test method for detecting HPV infection in men.
This is because an effective and reliable method for sampling skin cells of male genitals has not yet been developed. This method can detect HPV virus.
What should you do if you have genital warts?
If you have genital warts, you may need to stop having sex with your partner.
There is a risk that the wart-causing HPV infection will be transmitted to your partner if you have direct genital contact while warts are present. The use of a condom can reduce the risk.
Should you stop having sex with your partner if she has been diagnosed with HPV?
There is no reason to stop having sex with your partner if she has been tested for the virus and learns that she has an HPV infection.
The virus is usually exchanged between sexual partners, and by the time HPV is detected, it is likely that this exchange has already taken place. And if a particular type of virus has been exchanged, there is little risk of a ping-pong effect – where you and your partner would constantly reinfect each other with the same type. (In other words, you don’t have to worry about transmitting the same HPV type back and forth.)
However, if you start sexing with another partner, you can transmit all HPV types that are “active” in your body and vice versa.
Remember: detecting an HPV infection is not a sign that you or your partner have been unfaithful. The HPV virus can be “silent” for several years before it is detected by a test. Your partner has been carrying the HPV virus for a long time, and there is no way to know for sure when and from whom she got it.
What can you do to protect your partner and yourself from HPV infection?
Because HPV is so common, it is difficult to avoid it completely. You can assume that at some point in your life you will get HPV. Sexual contact with only one partner may be sufficient to get or spread the virus.
However, you can reduce the risk for yourself and your partner if you:
- Limit the number of sexual partners and choose partners who do the same.
- Use condoms if you are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship. Condoms protect against most sexually transmitted infections, including HPV. However, they do not provide complete protection against HPV infection because they do not cover the entire genital skin].
- Avoid sexual contact with a new partner if genital warts are visible.
- Motivate your wife or girlfriend to regularly perform a Pap test and (if she is 30 years of age or older) an HPV test.
Studies have also shown that circumcised men have a lower risk of developing penile cancer than uncircumcised men.
Is there an HPV vaccine for men?
There is currently no vaccine for men and no data to show that the vaccine for women also protects men against genital warts or the development of HPV-related cancers (such as the rare penile cancer). There is also no data to show whether vaccination in men can prevent the transmission of the virus to women.