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Women's Health

The Risk of Passing on HPV

11/06/2009

Question:

Hi! I really hope you can help me. 18 months ago I was diagnosed with genital warts - I had three tiny warts on the outside of my vagina which I discovered when coming out of a long term relationship, where we used birth control but not condoms. The doctor burnt them off immediately and said to avoid sex, use a condom and to come back if they reoccurred. I have been vigilant in checking and they have never returned, and I wondered it is was safe to have sex without a barrier again. I am terrified of passing on the virus, but I am beginning a serious relationship again. And I cant find reputable advice! Some sites say it stays with you forever and you can pass it on. Others say your body supresses it or rids itself. The NHS says it is only necessary to use condoms for 3 months after they have been treated. I don`t know who to believe!! And what about oral sex? Thank you for your help!!

Answer:

Genital warts are highly infectious when visible. Since you have no lesions after 18 months, it is unlikely that you are infectious, especially if your doctor looked and found no visible lesions. Healthy women with a good immune response generally clear the virus and are no longer infectious. It is always a good idea to use a condom to protect yourself from all sexually transmitted infections. 

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Response by:

Deborah A Bartholomew, MD Deborah A Bartholomew, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University