HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the world. In fact, according to WebMD, HPV infects at least 50% of all people who have sex at some point in their lives and that about 20 million people in the US are infected with HPV at any given time. On one hand, those facts could be reassuring. If anything, it means that you’re not alone. Whether you have HPV or you’re planning on having sex with someone you met on the largest herpes dating site PositiveSingles.com who is infected, a few protective measures may be in order. After all, just because you’re having sex with someone with HPV doesn’t mean that you have to contract the infection, and the inverse also applies. If you have it, there is no reason that you have to give it to your sexual partner. To keep both partners safe and to help you both rest easy, here are five ways to enjoy safer sex when HPV is on either side of the table (or the bed, as it were).
1. Knowledge and Openness Are Key
They say that knowledge is power and it’s true. By simply discussing the matter openly and by learning the facts, both of you can remain protected – the non-infected partner will remain infection-free and the infected partner will remain free of guilt for infecting an otherwise healthy person.
First, the facts. We know exactly how many people are infected with HPV, but what does the infection really do? WebMD tells us that there are over 100 types of viruses related to the Human Papilloma Virus group of infections, and that a full 60 of them may cause warts on the hands and feet. 40 of those are sexually transmitted.
Of the 40 that you or your partner may have to worry about, very few of them can cause cancer (esophageal, anal, cervical and penile). What does this mean? It means that lots of people have HPV and don’t know it. Some get warts, some don’t and very few get cancer. The one thing all HPV sufferers have in common is that they can potentially infect someone else. That is why prevention is always the best answer.
Here’s how to prevent giving the infection or contracting it when having sex with HPV.
2. The Close Inspection
If you are infected with HPV and you are fully open with your partner, have the person examine your genital and/or anal region for warts, lesions or any other signs of HPV. It might help if both of you look at photographs of HPV-infected people so that you know what to look for.
If you are about to have sex with an HPV-infected partner and that person hasn’t been totally open with you, or if you only suspect that the person might be infected, look closely while going ‘downtown’ before you engage in any foreplay or sex.
If you notice anything that looks suspect - raised bumps, bump clusters or anything else that makes you wary - you don’t necessarily have to ruin the moment and abstain, but you should put one or more of these HPV safe-sex tips into play to keep yourself extra protected.
3. There is a Vaccine That May Help
There are 2 vaccines available that may prevent the contraction and spread of the infection, but both formulas only protect against certain types of HPV. Most specifically, the vaccines protect against the two types that cause 70% of all cases of cervical cancer. One HPV vaccine also protects against the two types of HPV that cause 90% of all genital warts.If you are worried about contracting the infection or spreading it, talk to your doctor about getting yourself inoculated.
4. Condoms Can Help
Everyone who is old enough to have sex knows about the effectiveness of condoms. They can protect against pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea and HIV, and they can also protect you against HPV infection. Or they can protect you from spreading it to your partner. The operative word there is ‘can’.
About.com states that using condoms for vaginal intercourse can reduce the risk of cervical and penile cancer, but even condoms aren’t 100% safe against pregnancies. Condoms can break, slip off and then there’s the fact that HPV can be spread from the simple act of one partner touching the uncovered skin of another.
Condoms are good. They’re great, even. Just know that a condom is not a shield against HPV or any other infection, disease or even pregnancy. The lesson is to use condoms but use caution while you’re using them for both partners’ best results.
5. Dental Dams for Safer Oral Sex
Planned Parenthood recommends Sheer Glyde dams, dental dams or even plastic wrap if you plan on engaging in oral sex with an HPV infected partner, or vice versa. The site says that use of the thin barriers can reduce the risk of spreading or contracting HPV.
As you can tell by now, there is no fool-proof way to protect you from contracting HPV or to keep you from spreading it to your partner if you’re the one infected. The best strategy is to be open with your partner and to both study Human Papilloma Virus, the causes, effects and current prevention methods. If you are in doubt, have either partner inspect the infected partner for potential signs of the infection. Wear condoms and use dental dams for safer sex; and whatever you do, have fun.
Remember that sex is a time to share. It’s a time to explore each other’s bodies, erogenous zones and it’s a time for both of you to feel good – period. Don’t let the subject of HPV put a damper on an otherwise bonding yet liberating experience. Whether you plan to have sex with your friend, lover, PositiveSingles.com match or spouse, protect yourself but let your emotional connectedness and physical attraction rule the moment, especially if you expect the sex to be any good.