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can partners pass hpv back and forth

By: RSC Editorial Team

January 6, 2023

Can Partners Pass HPV Back and Forth?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) includes over 100 different strains, 40 of which are sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Approximately 14 million Americans contract HPV yearly, with 80 million infected in total, making it the most common STI. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that virtually all sexually active adults contract HPV at some point. 

Despite how common the virus is, HPV often causes stress and relationship strains, especially considering that different HPV types can cause cervical cancers, genital warts, and more. So, can partners pass HPV back and forth? Below, our Rapid STD Testing team explains what you need to know. 

Risk Factors for HPV

All sexually active adults are at risk of contracting HPV. The virus spreads through skin contact, which means you can contract it without having penetrative sex. HPV can spread through oral sex, anal sex, open-mouth kissing, contact with bodily fluids, and more. 

Am I at Risk for HPV? 

Different factors affect your risk of infection. The top risk factors include the following:

  • Number of sexual partners: Each sexual partner you have increases your chances of contracting common infections. If your partners have or have had multiple partners, your risks multiply. 
  • Age: Younger adults have higher chances of developing genital warts with HPV, while women over 30 have increased risks of HPV-related cancer. 
  • Immune strength: If you have a weakened immune system, your body will have more trouble fighting off the virus. 
  • Wounds: Any open wounds that come in contact with the virus, like a shaving cut or in-grown hair, can increase your chance of developing warts. 
  • Sexual and non-sexual contact: The more contact you have with genital warts or HPV-infected surfaces (like public toilets) increases your chances of contracting the virus. 

Testing for HPV 

Testing for HPV is not as straightforward as for other STIs. No blood exam exists for men with HPV. Women can take an HPV exam to test for the strains that cause different types of cancer. 

Because of these complications, doctors typically perform physical exams to diagnose HPV. If the virus presents itself as genital warts, your doctor can examine the area and diagnose it as HPV warts

Women over 30 can receive regular HPV screenings during their physical and pap exams to maintain cervical health and check for abnormalities. If your doctor detects warts, they may choose to biopsy the area to determine whether or not it’s a cancer-causing strain by viewing any abnormal cells. 

If you’re concerned about symptoms that may be HPV, you should visit your doctor or take a 10-panel STD test to rule out other infections. Many often confuse HPV with other STIs that require more immediate attention. You can order same-day STD testing from Rapid STD Testing for fast and discrete results. 

How HPV Is Transmitted Between Partners

Can partners pass HPV back and forth? To answer this question, you must understand how the different strains interact with your body’s immune system. If you contract one type of HPV, you may build a natural immunity to it, though that doesn’t protect you from contracting additional, more dangerous strains. 

Partners may pass different types of HPV between each other, causing reinfection. For example, you may contract genital warts from your current partner while infecting them with a different strain of HPV that you contracted from previous partners. 

HPV can take months or longer to display symptoms. You can enter a committed relationship without symptoms before noticing warts or discomfort. Such complications display the importance of open communication without placing “blame.” 

If I Have HPV, Does My Partner Have It Too?

If you have HPV, your partner likely has it as well, though that does not mean they will display symptoms. HPV can transfer via skin-to-skin contact, so even if you and your partner use protection, it may still spread. For example, a condom cannot protect all areas surrounding the genitals. 

You can still get an STD if both partners are clean and test negative because HPV does not appear on standard screenings. 

If you have HPV and think you may have transferred it to a male partner, they cannot get tested. If they notice any symptoms, they can receive a physical exam from their doctor. Female partners may get blood tested for certain strains. 

Can I Reinfect My Partner With HPV?

While partners can pass a few strains back and forth initially, both immune systems will build a tolerance eventually. Couples may share HPV strains and symptoms for the first few months or year of the relationship until their bodies learn to fight off the virus. In most scenarios, monogamous couples will not contract more than one or two strains during their relationship. 

Treatment for HPV

HPV treatment depends on your symptoms and strain. Asymptomatic HPV does not require treatment. If the virus develops into one of the following conditions, you may need medications or surgery:

  • Genital warts: Doctors can treat the uncomfortable symptoms associated with genital warts using topical medications or surgical procedures to remove the warts. For example, they may prescribe imiquimod to help your immune system fight the virus, then recommend laser treatments to remove any larger growths. 
  • Cervical cancer: Pap exams can detect cell abnormalities before cervical cancer develops. Advanced prevention is typically the best option for resolving problems that can develop into cancer. Women should receive regular pap exams to prioritize their cervical health. 

Women may also receive HPV vaccinations against the cancer-causing strains to prevent future complications. You can speak with your doctor about your options. 

Discussing HPV With Your Partner

Discussing an HPV diagnosis with your partner can feel overwhelming, nerve-wracking, and emotional. A lack of general education and public knowledge creates an overall negative stigma surrounding STDs, even though essentially all sexually active adults have HPV, whether they know it or not. Transparency and education can help remove this stigma, allowing more people to receive the treatment they need. 

We recommend the following tips to help make the conversation with your partner easier:

  • Learn first: Before speaking with your partner, be sure to answer all of your own questions. Educate yourself on anything they may need to know. For example, you can learn about treatment options, curability, contagiousness, symptoms, risks, and more. 
  • Eliminate blame: No one is to blame for contracting or spreading HPV, considering how widespread the virus is. You should not feel guilty or apologetic for your infection. Be sure to clarify with your partner that just because you have HPV doesn’t mean you “cheated” because your partner could have been the one who passed it to you without even knowing. 
  • Pick the right time to talk: Create a relaxing time and space for the discussion instead of bringing it up during an already stressful situation. 
  • Offer options: Your partner will likely want to know if they need to get tested or treated. Offering them answers to these questions can ease their concerns. 
  • Provide resources: Sometimes, word of mouth is unreliable and inconsistent. Come prepared for the conversation with legitimate medical resources backing up your information. 
  • Discuss relationship options: In some scenarios, the HPV discussion may lead to general conversations surrounding the longevity of your relationship. Be prepared to discuss your genuine opinions surrounding your commitment. 

Do I Need To Tell My Partner That I Have HPV?

You should inform your partner that you have HPV, especially if you have genital warts that can easily spread. Telling them ahead of time can help them understand what symptoms to watch out for, so they can receive treatment as soon as possible. 

Keeping Yourself Protected from HPV

Can partners pass HPV back and forth? If you are in a long-term monogamous relationship, you will already have built up an immunity to whatever strains you share. However, if you have multiple sexual partners or are entering a new relationship, getting tested or diagnosed can build trust from the start. Either way, we recommend the following tips:

  • Receive the HPV vaccine: The HPV vaccine prevents females from contracting the cancer-causing HPV strains. While the vaccine cannot guard against all types of HPV, it can prevent life-threatening complications.
  • Reduce your sexual partners: Reducing sexual contact to only trustworthy partners can mitigate your risks of contracting various infections. 
  • Use protection: Even when remaining monogamous, you should always use latex condoms and additional barrier methods to reduce skin-on-skin contact. 
  • Schedule regular exams: Regular physical exams can help your doctor locate early signs of cervical cancer, allowing you to receive preventative treatments. 
  • Get tested regularly: Receive regular STD screenings and urge your partner to do the same so you can stay on top of your health. You can order a rapid STD test from Rapid STD Testing or visit a local clinic. 
  • Spread awareness: Learning and teaching others about the symptoms of HPV can help you know when to seek treatment or abstain from sex. 

Do Your Part To Prevent HPV Outbreaks 

HPV outbreaks are incredibly common, though learning how the virus passes between sexual partners can help you reduce the spread. Now that you know the answer to “Can partners pass HPV back and forth?” it’s time to educate your partner and receive regular screenings. 

Whether you notice symptoms or not, receiving regular STD exams can help you stay on top of your health. Order 10-panel rapid STD tests from Rapid STD Testing, contact us at (866) 872-1888 with any questions, or visit your local STD testing center if you notice any symptoms.


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By: RSC Editorial Team
January 6, 2023

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