HPV Dormant Period: How Long Does It Take For HPV To Go Away?

HPV Dormant Period How Long It Stays

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 people who have HPV infections never experience any symptoms, and many cases go away without any treatment. However, if a HPV infection does not go away on its own, 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 – as shown below.

Disease / SymptomsHPV Strain Type
Cervical Cancer16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58
Precancerous Changes16, 18, 34, 39, 42, 55
Laryngeal Papillomas6, 11, 30
Throat / Oropharyngeal cancer16
Anal Cancer16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, 58
Anal Intraepithelial Neoplasia6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, 58
Penile Cancer16, 18
Genital warts6, 11, 30, 40-44, 54
Plantar warts1, 2, 4
Flat warts3, 10, 27, 28, 41, 49
Common warts1, 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 –

WebMD, Medscape, and the U.S. National Library of Medicine revealed the following:

When symptoms do develop, they usually occur 2 to 3 months after infection. But symptoms have been known to occur from 3 weeks to many years after infection.

The estimated incubation period from HPV infection to genital wart development is 2 weeks to 8 months, with the majority of genital warts appearing 2–3 months after an HPV infection.
The latency period between initial HPV exposure and development of cervical cancer may be months to years; Average time from initial infection to manifestation of invasive cervical cancer is estimated at up to 15 years.

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.
However, 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 a low, undetectable and 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:

“Progression from an initial HPV infection to cancer requires prolonged infection with a type of HPV that causes cancer. For this reason, cervical cancer typically develops 20 to 25 years after the initial HPV infection.” – by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

“HPV comes from a family of viruses that can remain dormant in your system for your lifetime.” – by Dr. James Ferguson @ HealthTap

“I am 47 years old, been with the same man for 30 years. Both faithful, we have been together since we were 13. About 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with HPV, and had to the colposcopy procedure. I had no symptoms, just abnormal pap tests.” – by Cjmitch @ CancerCompass

“My GYN told me that my husband had to have been infected with HPV 16 within the last few years for it to have turned into penile cancer. The Cutaneous Oncologist (skin cancer doctor) at the Dana Farber in Boston (top top cancer hospital) said that the HPV 16 can lay dormant for over 20 years.” – by MrsHPV @ HPV Support Forum

“My Dr. told me stories of how one of her patients had been a widow for 30 years and hadn’t been sexually active and came down with a positive HPV – sometimes there are no answers.” – by texasprincess @ Hyster Sisters

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:

“I have been with my husband for over 10 years, I have never had an abnormal pap until 2 years ago… is it possible that my husband is sleeping with someone else whom may have given me this?” – by MrsHill317 @ MedHelp

“My wife told me today she has HPV. We’ve been married 25 yrs. I have been faithful and I think she has too, but she is blaming me.” – by tradewin @ HealthBoards

“My boyfriend of 3 and 1/2 years stopped having sex with me a year ago after a routine pap led me to discover that I had mild dysplasia and high risk hpv. He has accused me of cheating on him, which I have never cheated on him.” – by trelle9670 @ Inspire

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 and couples with only one sex partner, the risk of HPV infection still exist. 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?

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 –

2. 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.

3. Practice safe sex by using condom, avoid oral sex, and do not share sex toy – to help you prevent exposure to new HPV-strain.

4. 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.

30 Comments on "HPV Dormant Period: How Long Does It Take For HPV To Go Away?"

  1. am pregnant,its only last month my husband visited me thereby after 2 weeks I developed genital warts,on asking him he said he doesn’t have any problem,sincerely I have not had any extra sexual contact apart from him….what could be the problem

    • Ruth,

      Generally there is no definitive way to determine exactly how long you’ve had HPV in your body – whether it’s a new recent infection, or it’s possible that you’ve been infected for a long time with HPV stays dormant in your body yet reactivated only lately to start developing the symptoms (eg. genital warts).

      Similarly on what could cause genital wart, that in addition to sexual contact, Dr Bhisham highlighted HPV may also be transmitted via formites, as indicated above. Even for monogamous marriage and couples with only one sex partner, the risk of HPV infection still exist.

      It is recommended to consult doctor on genital wart treatment during pregnancy, and ensure do not apply over the counter wart removal products without seeking prior medical advice. Check out >> this article “Genital Warts During Pregnancy” by The American Pregnancy Association for your reference, hope it helps.

  2. I had an unprotected sex with with a girl, after the sex I came to know that she had an cervical cancer since 2012 and she had a baby in march 2016
    She was saying that I’m clear I don’t have anything
    And she don’t have any wart at time to sex
    She was saying that she had taken chemotherapy and liquid nitrogen treatment in the past
    So do I need to worry about the hpv
    Do I get hpv for her

    • Sma,

      First of all, it’s important to note that cervical cancer and warts are caused by different HPV strains. As indicated above, cervical cancer is caused by HIGH-Risk HPV (such as HPV-16 and HPV-18), while wart is caused by LOW-Risk HPV (such as HPV-6 and HPV-11 for genital warts).

      In another words, high-risk HPV strain that cause cervical cancer does not result in wart (that is caused by low-risk HPV strain).

      Your concern regarding “can man get HPV by having unprotected sex with female with high-risk HPV and cervical cancer” is a frequently asked question, in which below are sources that you can check out some relevant feedback:

      1. “Men and HPV” by Foundation for Women’s Cancer

      2. “HPV Infection in Men” by WebMD

      In short, the risk of HPV transmission is there, though the HPV types associated with cervical cancer usually do not cause health problems for a man having sex with HPV-infected woman. Most people who have HPV infections never experience any symptoms (like warts), and in many cases go away within several months or years.

      It’s recommended that you consult a healthcare provider for more personal guidance to best understand your specific HPV risk.

  3. Is it true that the virus clears with in 2 years
    In fact I also took the hpv vaccine right after the sex

  4. My girlfriend of 4 years has kicked me out her pap came back hpv an cin 1 she is saying I must of cheated because it only takes 2 years to clear I didn’t cheat how has this happened

    • Johny, sorry to hear about that. Just as the other sample cases indicated in the post, it’s observed that someone may get emotional when first diagnosed with HPV, including pointing towards the partner’s infidelity.

      On your question of “how has this happened” –> while there is no definitive answer with especially it may vary from person to person, this post alongside the section “I’m Diagnosed HPV Positive: Has My Partner Cheated On Me?” above outline some possible reasons.

      If it’s possible, it’s recommended that you and your girlfriend consult a healthcare provider together for more personal guidance to best understand your partner’ pap/HPV case specifically, and the best possible ways to move forward. Wishing you all the best.

  5. Ann F Rooney | June 25, 2017 at 11:28 pm | Reply

    I am 59 married 37yrs, my husband was married before (his first love) and had one encounter of oral sex before me. I had issues with heartburn and acid reflux and had a scope done- many biopsies- has been 3 weeks waiting for results- in the meantime had a pap test done and got a call I am HPV positive- I am devastated, I have never been with anyone else, have not been sick, not even a cold in 3yrs. While I am going to have the colopsy test done, I am not sure if I should have sex with my husband, (not really interested anyway at this point) and not interested in oral sex, I am just not sure if I can keep re-infecting myself… and yes I do question if he has been with anyone, and he stated no.. ( but did ask if I was)

  6. Hi i am men and 31 year old.
    I have hpv for 5 year.
    After 5 year i can remove hpv virus from my body with immune system?

  7. I was diagnosed with HPV ( genitle warts) 22 years ago. I didn’t have an outbreak in 20 years and now I saw a wart. I’ve been with my boyfriend for 4 years, neither of us cheated. I’ve been under a lot of stress the last year so could this be a reoccurance or possibly be a new infection from him.

    • Sue, sorry to hear that.

      While believe there is no definitive way to conclude what caused your (recurring) wart lately, especially considering there are more than 5 low-risk HPV strains that can cause genital warts – it’s known that people with weak immune system are more vulnerable and therefore more likely to develop warts.

      You mentioned that you’ve been under a lot of stress, and stress can weaken body’s immunity (learn more here), so it is a possible risk factor that triggered dormant HPV virus in your body into active mode and resulted wart to come back.

      Suggest you consult a healthcare provider for more personal guidance to best understand your case specifically.

  8. Do certain strains such as hpv 16, 18, and the other few strains that can lead to cervical cancer, have a higher instance of dormancy/hibernation than the other non-dangerous sexually transmitted hpv strains?

    Are there studies that reflect this info?

    Also: If the CDC states that 90% of infections are killed of by the immune system, and other sources state that there is no evidence that the body can’t kill off the virus completely, isn’t that contradictory? Why isn’t there consensus on this issue?


    • greg17prime, thanks for your good questions.

      1. There is a study (check here) published by the Vrije Universiteit Medical Centre of Amsterdam that indicates “HPV 16 had a significantly lower clearance rate than infections with low-risk types”, while another study (check here) by McGill University of Montreal found clearance rate was higher for nononcogenic types than for tumors-causing oncogenic HPV infections.

      2. When CDC states that 90% of HPV infections can be cleared within ~2 years, they cited 4 reference sources as shown in CDC website. However, from these cited references, we do not find strong evidences that support the claim, which may be the reason some sources indicate there is no evidence that the HPV virus can be completely rid of.

      Thus far we do observe a related study (check here) published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine that indicates “A study of college-age women showed that 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”.

      Other sources that indicate HPV virus can be cleared (within ~2 years) include World Health Organization (WHO) and National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC).

      It’s recommended that you consult a professional healthcare provider to understand this topic further.

  9. I had sexual contact with a woman in 1996 who had HPV. (hpv 16 or 18). In 2010, I was a relationship with a woman who tested positive for HPV. Could the strain I came in contact with in ’96 have lasted in my body that many years?

  10. My aunt has a widow for over 25 years 5year ago she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and had an operation which removed her womb. Is her life still at risk? The test so far say there are no cancer cells.Could she have been infected in the later years or can the hpv be domant for over 20 years?

  11. I am currently with a woman who had a history of polyps and abnormal pap tests, and eventual ablation, not attributed to HPV. We broke up for a brief time, and about 6 weeks after getting back together, she complained of warts and got treatment for those, then attributed to HPV. Within 6 months, her condition degraded to the point where she had a complete hysterectomy, ovoectomy, and multiple complications. While we were apart in that brief period, that rapid timeline is contrary to all research I find from the WHO, CDC, ACS… If this even possible, because this is all being blamed on me.

  12. I have been dealing with Warts for past 2 years. Using the removal cream and each time they come back. When will this stop?

    • Sean, sorry to hear about your recurring warts.

      If it’s the same type of wart that comes back, then it’s possible that the HPV virus strain that cause your (previous) warts have not been fully eradicated in your body, get re-triggered into active mode from time to time and caused warts to surface again.

      There is no definitive answer on when this will stop, though CDC claims over 90% of HPV infections are cleared by the body itself within 2 years.

      Suggest you consult a healthcare provider for more personal guidance to best understand your case specifically, while you may be interested to check out >> How to Build Your Body Immune System to Help Get Rid of HPV Wart Virus Naturally.

  13. I was with my boyfriend for over a year when he developed genital warts for the first time. I haven’t ever had them. Do warts general show up within weeks to months after contacting HPV and what is the actual likelihood of them showing up after years?
    That was 6 years ago but I was just curious.

    • Michelle, as indicated in the post:

      According to WebMD and U.S. National Library of Medicine, the estimated incubation period from HPV infection to genital wart development is 2 weeks to 8 months, with majority of genital warts appear 2 to 3 months after HPV infection.

      Furthermore, CDC claims over 90% of HPV infections are cleared by the body itself within 2 years, with clearance usually occurs in the first 6 months after infection.

  14. Im pregnant and just discovered that im positive low risk and high risk 16 and 18,, whats the next step and is that mean that i will get cervical cancer!!!can my immune system clear high risk hpv strain 16 and 18??

  15. Hello, I am a 48yr old woman and just got my pap test and the results say that I have no cancer or precancerous cells but possible infection with hpv virus. I googled everything about hpv and could not find too much information on my age group if hpv will or can go dormant again. My gynocologist said that it can and that I should not worry too much about it. I am taking vitamins, eating healthy and exercising. I am due to go back for another test in 3 months.

  16. Question. My boyfriend got a wart. I had tested hpv positive 10 years ago. And was re-tested 3-6 months later and it was negative. And was negative few years later. Is it possible for me to have given hpv to him even though it was negative after all these years. We’v both only been with each other. I never cheated. He’s saying he got this from me and if I test positive it’s over between us. I’m devastated.

    • Sharon, sorry to hear that.

      While CDC claims over 90% of HPV infections are cleared by the body itself within 2 years, it’s strongly recommended that you consult a medical professional to further understand your case / questions specifically, including the exact HPV-type that you were tested positive 10 years ago — whether it was low-risk HPV strain that may cause the type of wart your bf has (because not all HPV strains are causing wart whilst generally each type of wart is caused by different HPV virus strain, as shown in table above).

  17. I am 56 years old and have been diagnosed with hpv 16 and 18. I had an abnormal Pap test in May 2017. I had another Pap smear done a week ago and that’s when I was diagnosed. I have been married to the same man for 23 years. This is devastating news because we have both been faithful. How in the world does something like this show up so late in life? It’s scary to think that a virus can stay dormant for so many years. It’s frustrating for me because I’m confused about this virus, it’s long term effects and reoccurrence. I will schedule an appointment with my ob/gyn in order to understand this. Frustrated and Confused to say the least.

  18. Curious Patient | November 22, 2017 at 11:01 am | Reply

    I am a barber that has no doubt ingested a large quantity of human hair and dander over a 35 year period. I was recently diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the nasal cavity. Could HPV infected hair have caused this? I had surgery to remove the mass and the post op diagnosis was cancer, saw an oncologist who said there’s still too much cancer present to start radiation and I need more surgery. Would like to talk to Dr. Chera about this! No local doctors have dealt with this before, and I have suspected the hair to be a factor all along.

  19. If a girl had sex with a guy and a year later was diagnosed with HPV (hadn’t had any other sexual partners) and this guy had sex with someone else (didn’t know), are all his new partners carriers? I also had sex with this same guy in that period of a year prior to her diagnosis and it is now 4 years later and I have had no symptoms or abnormal paps but am just finding out about this other girl being diagnosed with HPV. Is this something to be worried about and at what point should you tell future partners? If you have sex with someone that carries HPV only once does that automatically mean you are also a carrier? Any information on this would be much appreciated

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