I just found out I have HPV. Can I spread it if I perform oral sex on a girl or boy? Also, I need to find out which type of HPV it is but I can't go to my normal doctor. I tried to make an appointment at Teen Clinic for an exam but was told I have to be 21. Since I'm 18, is there any way around this?
HPV is an infection spread through skin-to-skin contact. It can cause abnormal cell growth, including genital warts and some cancers. While there are more than 100 different types of HPV, about 40 affect the genitals. It is estimated that most people who have sex will get HPV in their life; it is extremely common. However, in 90% of cases, HPV clears naturally from the body within two years. This is especially true for young people, whose immune systems are usually very strong.
For this reason, the most current medical guidelines suggest that people get their first Pap smear at age 21. A Pap smear is when a doctor or nurse uses a swab to take a sample of cells from the cervix to make sure they are growing normally. (When they are growing abnormally, it is often a sign of HPV). This is different from a pelvic exam, which is when a doctor physically examines the genital area to make sure it is healthy. A doctor could also diagnose or treat genital warts caused by HPV during a pelvic exam. At Teen Clinic, you can make an appointment for a pelvic exam. However, you won’t be able to get a Pap test because it is not medically necessary at your age.
If you have been diagnosed with HPV, it might be helpful to make an appointment at Teen Clinic to talk to a provider. It’s also important to know that HPV spreads through genital-to-genital contact or genital-to- mouth contact. While performing oral sex can put you at risk for contracting HPV orally, it is still unknown whether or not HPV can spread from a person’s mouth onto someone else’s genitals. Having genital HPV does not automatically mean that you also have oral HPV.
Teen Clinic recommends using condoms and/or dental dams every time you have sex in order to reduce the risk of transmitting HPV to others. This will also reduce your risk for contracting other types of HPV! We also recommend getting the Gardasil vaccine if you haven't already. Gardasil can prevent the most dangerous types of HPV if you do not already have them. This vaccine is low-cost at Teen Clinic!!
Why can't boys be tested for HPV?
There is currently no approved test for HPV in males. Routine testing (also known as "screening") to check for HPV or HPV-related disease before a person has symptoms is not recommended for anal, penile, or throat cancers in males in this country. However, some healthcare providers do offer something called an anal Pap test to males who may be at increased risk for anal cancer, including men with HIV or men who receive anal sex. An anal Pap test is just a swab of the anus that checks for any changes in the cells in the anus, similar to a Pap test of the cervix in females.
If you have symptoms and are concerned about cancer, please make an appointment to talk to one of our providers!