HPV has become very common that it can already be considered as a normal part of life, with HPV (Human papillomavirus) is one of the most common STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) in the US.
The U.S. CDC estimated that over 79 million Americans are infected with it, which means around every 1 in 4 Americans has HPV.
Men mostly only become aware that they have HPV once warts start to appear and in case of women, when their Pap smear result are found to be abnormal.
The human body will normally cure HPV itself, which is why most affected person never become aware of their HPV and it gets cured with time – but some aren’t as lucky.
So how long does HPV stay dormant in the human body with or without the person knowing?
Human Papillomavirus: Strain Types, Symptoms, Incubation Period.
There are more than 200 different kinds of HPV virus and out of these, with around 40 are of those are sexually transmitted.
Once the virus gets into the body, HPV can behave in one out of two ways –
They can either become active or remain dormant within the cells of the body, mainly depending on:
- Body immune level, because immune system is the first line of defense against HPV. People with weakened immune systems are at greater risk to trigger this virus into active mode.
- Type of HPV strains infected, as some types of HPV tend to be more persistent than others.
Most men and women who have HPV infections never experience any symptoms, and many cases can go away without any treatment. However, if HPV virus (eg. HPV 16 and 18) does not go away on its own forever, it is possible to develop HPV symptoms months or years after getting infected.
Once HPV virus become active and its symptom starts showing up, low-risk HPV types can cause warts, while high-risk HPV strains may cause varying cancers such as cervical cancer – as shown below.
|Disease / Symptoms||HPV Strain Type|
|Cervical Cancer||16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58|
|Precancerous Changes||16, 18, 34, 39, 42, 55|
|Laryngeal Papillomas||6, 11, 30|
|Throat / Oropharyngeal cancer||16|
|Anal Cancer||16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, 58|
|Anal Intraepithelial Neoplasia||6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, 58|
|Penile Cancer||16, 18|
|Genital warts||6, 11, 30, 40-44, 54|
|Plantar warts||1, 2, 4|
|Flat warts||3, 10, 27, 28, 41, 49|
|Common warts||1, 2, 4, 26, 27, 29, 41, 57|
Recommended read: Can HPV be Positive and then tested Negative?
It is important to understand that tested positive for HPV does not necessarily mean you will definitely have HPV symptoms like genital warts or cancers. For instance, most women will have an HPV infection during their lifetime, but very few get cervical cancer.
On how long will it take for HPV symptoms like warts and cancer to show up after exposure –
Watch the excellent video below to learn more on low-risk genital HPV and wart, high-risk HPV and cancer, HPV vaccination with Gardasil and Cervarix, etc.
How Long Can HPV Be Dormant in Men and Women?
On the frequently asked question of “how long can you have HPV and not know it?” –
Advanced as it is, medical science does not yet have all answers to the mysteries of life, and HPV dormant period happens to be among them.
There is no definitive answer by the medical experts as to how long does HPV stay in your system, because the HPV dormant time varies greatly from person to person.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) appraises that more than 90% of HPV infections are cleared by the body itself within two years, with clearance usually occurs in the first 6 months after infection.
Another study on 608 college-age women conducted by Albert Einstein College of Medicine showed approximately 70% of women with HPV infections became HPV negative within 1 year, and as many as 91% of them became HPV negative within 2 years. Median duration of infection was 8 months.
Do All HPV Strains Have Same or Similar Clearance Time?
Research show clearance rate was higher for nononcogenic HPV types than for tumors-causing oncogenic HPV infections. For instance:
- Study by McGill University of Montreal show median retention times were 8.1 months for oncogenic HPV types — much longer than the 4.8 months for nononcogenic HPV infections.
- Vrije Universiteit Medical Centre of Amsterdam conducted 5 years HPV clinical research that studied HPV clearance on 227 Colombian women, with results show HPV 16 had significantly lower clearance rate than infections with low-risk HPV types.
In another word, high risk HPV such as HPV-16 and HPV-18 tend to stay longer in the body, when compared to the low risk HPV like HPV 6 and 11 that have relatively faster / higher clearance rate.
But how to know if HPV is gone from your system, when HPV testing is limited?
It is not known for certain whether the body really disposes of the virus entirely, or like in the case of many other women the virus is just suppressed to an undetectable low level. It’s conceivable that either situation can happen, depending the person in question and the type of HPV.
As such, there is no evidence that denies the possibility that HPV can be dormant for over 20 or even 30 years, with below are some related statements and comments on “how long does HPV last in males and females” that are open for debates:
Recommended read: 11 Medically-Proven Natural Remedies for HPV and Cervical Dysplasia
I’m Diagnosed HPV Positive: Has My Partner Cheated On Me?
When a person is first diagnosed with HPV, it can be scary and emotionally upsetting.
Fear, shock, anger, anxiety, or self-depreciation may often drive reactions like forum feedback below:
Contracting sexual-related HPV virus (eg. HPV-6 that caused genital warts) could point toward your partner’s infidelity, but that it’s not a definitive telltale sign, because:
- It is possible that you have been infected for a long time without you even knowing it, with the virus have remained dormant or undetected for years, while no screening test is 100% accurate.
- There is a possibility that your partner has already been infected with HPV before started the relationship with you, with the virus stay dormant with no HPV symptoms over the years.
- HPV can be transmitted even when an infected person has no symptoms, and you can develop symptoms years after being infected.
There is no any way to know how long you’ve had HPV in your body and who transmitted the virus to you, so the HPV could have been staying dormant for all the time since the start of your relationship.
As such, being diagnosed with HPV does not necessary mean that your partner is unfaithful.
In webinar below, Associate professor Bhisham Chera MD from University of North Carolina School of Medicine addressed FAQs like “How is HPV transmitted”, “Does that mean that my partner cheated?”, “Is my partner at risk of getting cancer from me”, oral HPV infection etc.
In the video, Dr Bhisham has highlighted that non-sexual transmission of HPV is possible, whereby “HPV may also be transmitted via formites. Fomite is any nonliving object or substance capable of carrying infectious organisms (examples include skin cells, hair, clothing, door knobs).”
As such, even for monogamous marriage / relationship and couples with only one sex partner, the risk of HPV infection still exist because there are other ways that you can get HPV. When you have HPV infection, chances are your sex partner has got it as well.
Does HPV Go Away Forever? Can HPV Come Back Once It Has Cleared?
While the U.S. CDC claims over 90% of HPV infections are cleared by the body itself within 2 years —
According to McGill University of Canada, it is estimated that the HPV infection will persist in about 1% of women, and it is these persisting infections that may lead to cancer.
So it is possible to get infected with HPV, have it cleared up, then the HPV come back and become active again years later – with the old dormant HPV infections can “re-activate” mainly because of weakened immune system.
What’s more, on the off chance that you have sexual contact with another person, you could get another new HPV-strain infection with an alternate kind of the virus.
If You Have HPV – Now What? Can You Have Sex with HPV?
Being diagnosed with HPV is not the end of the world, and you are certainly not alone.
While CDC claims our immune system can clear the virus naturally within 2 years in 90% of the cases, HPV can remain dormant in body for years, and medical professionals have no definitive answer on how long can HPV be dormant before it’s totally gone.
Stay positive, focus on the few things below and look forward:
1. It is vital to keep your immune system healthy to minimize the risk of re-activating dormant HPV that stay in your body. Boost your immune system by not smoking, exercising, and eat healthy –
- Medical study: Japanese mushroom extract AHCC as natural cure for HPV.
- Seaweed extract Fucoidan kills cancer cells and promotes body immunity.
- 7 immune boosting DIY smoothie and juice recipes.
2. Having HPV does not mean you have to stop having sex. Practice safe sex by using condom and/or dental dams every time you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Condoms will not fully protect your partner 100% from contracting the virus when engaging in sex, but safer sex can lower the risk. And do not share sex toy, to help you prevent exposure to new HPV-strain.
3. If have warts, regardless if it is genital wart or non-genital wart (eg. plantar wart on foot or common wart on hand), seek immediate treatment to get rid of warts because HPV virus is highly contagious and it may spread to other people or to the other part of your body.
4. Follow the HPV screening recommendations of your healthcare provider, or check out the American Cancer Society guidelines for the prevention and early detection of cervical cancer here.