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Ask Dr. K

I recently met a woman who said she had tested positive for HPV in 2002 after an abnormal pap smear.  She said she has never had warts, and that it had been diagnosed as the more high-risk kind.  Since that pap smear she has had several subsequent ones that came back normal.

I have read online that HPV can go away after 1-2 years, is this true?

I guess I'm wondering how safe it is to go ahead and have a sexual relationship with her.

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a family of over 100 different types of viruses. They are very common and spread very easily. Over 70% of sexually active adults will show evidence of a past HPV infection. I think of HPV like a cold virus, a genital cold. Most HPV infections are asymptomatic—people are infected and do not know it. Many HPV infections do go away on their own. However, some HPV infections persist, stay in the body, and can cause warts and abnormal PAP smears. Rarely permanent infections can lead to cancer of the cervix, penis or anus.

HPV is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact during sex. Regularly using condoms will greatly reduce the risk of getting the infection. For more information on HPV, see

To your health,
Dr. K

Last modified on Thursday, November 19, 2009.
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