11 Feb 2011

Health: Chances Are You Have, Have Had, or Will Get HPV…

Category: Health

Each year over 6.2 million people are infected with HPV (human papillomavirus) and at least 50% of sexually active people in the United States will get genital HPV (some estimates are as high as 80%). HPV does not cause health problems for most people, but if health problems do develop, they can be severe.

There are many types of HPV (approximately 40 that infect genitals and the anus) that are either ‘low-risk’ HPV types or ‘high-risk’ HPV types. HPVs that fall under the ‘high-risk types’ can cause several types of cancer, including cervical cancer in women (which is where most prevention efforts have been) and up to 90% of anal cancers in men.

Although the most common health problem reported with HPV in men is genital warts, men who have sex with men are 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer than men who do not have sex with men. Cases of HPV-related anal cancer are almost double in men with weak immune systems, especially those with HIV.

There is no consensus on screening for anal cancer in men; most doctors will conduct a digital rectal exam (sticking a finger in your anus), but an anal papilloma screening (anal PAP) can detect structural changes in calls that are precursors to anal cancer. An anal Pap  test is something that should be offered to all men who have sex with men.

Symptoms include bleeding, pain or lumps in the anal area. Anal itching and discharge can also be signs of anal cancer. Early symptoms of anal cancer such as blood in the stool or a feeling of pressure can easily be mistaken for hemorrhoids. If your hemorrhoids don’t get better, you need to talk to your doctor.

There is no approved HPV test for men and HPV is so common that it is difficult to avoid. It is reasonable to expect that you will get HPV at some point in your life. But HPV usually goes away on its own, without causing health problems in men.

You can minimize risks by wearing a condom (although they do not provide complete protection against HPV, since they do not cover all genital skin).

In October 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved use of the first HPV vaccine (marketed as Gardasil®) for boys or men age 9 through 26 for the prevention of genital warts caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) types 6 (most commonly associated with anal warts) and 11 (associated with cancer).

If you do get HPV, it is natural to want to know who gave it to you, but there is no way to know for sure. The virus is very common. A person can have genital HPV for a very long time before it is detected. If you have genital HPV, don’t blame your current partner – or assume your partner is cheating. Genital HPV is not necessarily a sign that you or your partner is having sex outside of your relationship.

A new resource on your anus comes from Lifelube, a gay men’s health website and blog. The resource is a new series called “Andrew’s Anus”, which is written from the perspective of Andrew’s butt. The column covers anal health, HPV and other issues Andrew’s anus encounters. I cannot help but think a ‘first booty’ perspective is one worth exploring!


18 comments for Health: Chances Are You Have, Have Had, or Will Get HPV…

  • Very informative and timely, I know all to well the danger of HPV. It’s nothing pretty to be messed with and you want to seek treatment right away.

  • It might be noted that many females who received the Gardasil HPV vaccine have come back asking whether or not this vaccine caused health problems they developed after the vaccine.

    This vaccine has raised a lot of questions and as of September 30, 2010, there were 17160 VAERS reports of adverse events following Gardasil (HPV) vaccination in the United States.

    Do your research because some of the adverse events after this vaccine include Guillain-Barré Syndrome, blood clots and as of September 30, 2010, there have been 56 U.S. reports of death among females who have received Gardasil

    I am not saying one should or should not get the vaccine but this seems like a rather serious list of adverse effects.

  • thanks for sharing this informations on HPV’s, it’s really helping me to understand more about sexually transmitted diseases. it makes me more aware of my own personal ways to avoid getting infected. i should limit my anal encounters and use preventive measures everytime i feel the urge.

  • Remember that screening (i.e. regular pap smears), diagnosis and treatment if necessary mean you don’t have to get anal cancer. Abnormal cells are quite often easily treated, and full blown anal cancer is exceedingly rare.

    So don’t freak out – get yourself checked out regularly.

  • Thanks for the info its really imformative and everyone should know the symptoms and signs

  • Thank you for this article. A few things to point out, however. In this article, it mentions that HPV will go away on its own. While it is true that symptoms may disappear, HPV is a virus, and like other viruses (i.e., HIV, Hepatitis, Herpes), it may stay dormant within your body for extended periods of time. It does not mean that the HPV went away.

    Second, in regards to the Guadasil vaccine, the FDA has approved its use in men up to age 26. This is due to the belief that most men will have encountered the strains of HPV that the vaccine covers by that point in their life. If you are not sexually experienced and past that age, there may still be benefit in receiving the Guardasil vaccination.

    Finally, in response to Jason; you are correct. There may be many claims against the adverse health effects from receiving this vaccine. Nevertheless, there are almost always side effects that may occur as the result of a vaccine or medication. It is important that consumers are aware of this risks, yet it is also important that they consider them within a larger, public health context. In other words, “What is the likelihood that I would experience one of the side effects?” And, “What is the likelihood that I may eventually contract HPV and a potentially life threatening form of cancer if I do not receive the vaccine?” these are questions that do not have concrete answers at this point in time, but they are questions one should ask if she or he is thinking about receiving the vaccine.

  • HPV has also been linked to throat cancer, with oral sex being a major risk factor.

  • I was involved in a study at Washington University in St. Louis on whether Gardasil, the HPV vaccine worked on gay, HIV+ men with a history of anal warts. I never did find out the results of that or whether I was given the live medicine or the “non live” medicine of saline. It was interesting to be a part of that study.

  • While we are on the subject of STDs (and at the risk of being politically incorrect) has anyone in the gay community ever considered the possibility of advocating for the avoidance of anal sex altogether, since it is by far the riskiest sexual behavior for the transmission of every STD, including HIV and HVP?

    The risk of contracting or transmitting HIV from oral sex is virtually zero. I find it disturbing that gay health resources continue to perpetuate the misconception that there is any significant risk of transmitting HIV through oral sex, while implicitly condoning anal sex by suggesting that it can be practiced “safely”. How many lives of gay men have been lost or destroyed because it is considered homophobic to say that anal sex is dangerous, inherently unhygienic, and extremely high-risk behavior that should be avoided altogether?

    As for “Andrew’s Anus” (ugh), I cannot help but think that if you want to remain healthy and live a long life, another man’s anus is not worth exploring!

  • Actually Clark, while HPV can stay dormant in some people, it is also true that many people can actually “clear” the infection. The same way that when you have a cold, you clear the virus. With regards to the vaccine, there probably are a very very very small minority of people with side effects and in exceedingly rare circumstances these can be very serious. However, remember in the placebo group (that is the group that was injected with salt water) there is also reported side effects – people are notoriously unreliable subjects and have a whole host of problems unrelated to their treatment at hand….

  • Just to clear up any confusion here is a little more information:

    Your immune system is able to fight off HPV in the body.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the HPV generally goes away within two years.

    While your body will always have the virus, you will never test positive for the same strain of the Human Papillomavirus once the infection has cleared up.

    The body keeps HPV in a dormant state even after it has been cleared from the genital area.

    HPV can reappear when the immune system is threatened by factors including lack of hygiene, poor diet and stress.

  • I am a gay male in my 40s and have had the vaccine with no adverse reactions. I consider this to be one of the best investments that I have made in a long time…

    Talk to your Doctor…. I had to pay cash for my vaccines were not covered by my carrier and the Doc was willing to give me the shots so I took the chance….

  • I discovered I had one HPV subtype [there are hundreds] when I asked my doc for the Gardasil vaccination. Had a friend who contracted anal cancer and treatment with radiation beamed at his perineum (crotch) that was no holiday. Before ordering the vaccination, Doc did an anal pap smear which revealed abnormal cells, ultimately a few asymptomatic rectal warts which were painlessly removed, indicating one HPV subtype. While Gardasil protects against 4 types of HPV, including 2 for cancer, it will not prevent further outbreaks if already infected..that never goes away. In my case, annual pap smears indicate no new warts and I am remain protected against the type that causes cancer. Because I am older than 26, insurance would not pay for the 3 injection series and I paid over $300 out of pocket, a small price to prevent cancer in my opinion.

  • Thank you all for your expertise… I contracted some sort of HPV from my partner (at 25) my doctor never told but about the vaccine… Im 27 now and just recently found out I’ve been HIV + as well for at least six months (guessHPV was not all he gave me…huh?) back to the point the HPV has returned.. Would the vaccine still help being that i acquired it two years ago?

  • People, the only way to stop getting STDs is to stop fooling around with all kinds of strangers just because they look good from the outside. Like they say, you play you would gain that’s that sample.

    Now these days people are so nasty dirty it looks like almost everyone online is on a race to see how many man they will get in bed before they get HIV or some type of STD. I don’t think most men and woman are safe now these days, as most people fool around a lot with so many different people it is disgusting everyone wants love but no one is willing to stick together.

  • Eric – this is a conversation you should have with your doctor. The vaccine may or may not be helpful in your case.

    Should he recommend the vaccine, be aware that it may not be covered by your insurance because of your age.

    I am sorry to hear your story… your situation is far too common. There is substantial biological evidence that shows the presence of other STDs increases the likelihood of both transmitting and acquiring HIV. This is just one of the many reason why STDs should never be taken lightly.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. The best of health and luck to you.

    For more info: http://www.cdc.gov/std/hiv/STDFact-STD-HIV.htm

  • For bottoms, they can do an anal pap, similar to a female pap smear, to test for hpv (but only recommended if you have symptoms)

  • @Eric – The HPV vaccine, Gardisil, can help prevent other types of HPV as it covers more than just one type, covers 4 types, so it would give some benefit from future strains.

    I believe they are still in testing to see if the vaccine would have a therapeutic effect on those who have one of the strains already though. Might try to look into research trials and see if they have any for it.

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