HPV: Sexual and Non-Sexual Modes of Transmission


Q: I am 54 year old male. Have never had a STD till recently. My girlfriend has HPV, but says she has never had genital warts. We both now have genital warts. I work in an industry where several people will share the same bed thoughout the day. Is it possible to get this virus from sleeping in a bed that an infected person had previously slept in?


A:   HPV is the virus that causes genital warts and it is the same virus that can cause warts anywhere else in the body e.g. foot, hands, etc. This also causes cervical cancer and penile cancer. Your girlfriend had the virus but she said she did not have genital warts until now. That means she had asymptomatic (with HPV but no warts) HPV infection. However, genital warts may not be seen, some of them are deeper in the pelvic organs. In other words, it is very likely that you contracted it from her. This virus is contained in the superficial squamous cells. There are numerous parts of the body lined w/ squamous cells: skin, genitalia, larynx, mouth, etc. Easy shedding of the superficial squamous cells can transmit the virus; examples are mere direct skin to skin contact and sexual contact. Kissing and a mere handshake can also transmit the HPV virus. The virus usually needs viable cells for transmission to happen. The possibility of acquiring HPV thru contaminated bedsheets is small, if at all. A probable scenario would be the sheets having some fresh body fluid (saliva, semen, etc) and your genital had come in contact with it; there is a small chance of acquiring it this way. In your case, since your girlfriend had HPV, it is more likely you acquired it from her. You may ask your doctor if you can still benefit from the HPV vaccine. It can protect you and your partner from cervical cancer, penile cancer and common genital warts. Only 3 shots are needed for lifetime protection. I do hope I have enlightened you in some way. I wish you all the best and take care always.

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