5 Things All Men Should Know About HPV
Many people assume that the HPV virus is not something men need to be concerned about, but this is wrong. The virus can affect men in many ways, and all men – particularly those who are sexually active – should be informed about the disease. Here, we offer 5 things to keep in mind:
There are estimated to be over 250 strains of the HPV virus, and few are serious threats to your health. Many result in the common wart, which appears in skin lesions on your hands and feet. These types of infections are experienced by many people through the course of a lifetime. Such infections can generally be brought under control quite easily through the use of over-the-counter ointments, or in more stubborn cases, prescriptions from your doctor. There is rarely if ever any reason for concern, but these infections can be unsightly and embarrassing. You can avoid them by practicing good personal hygiene in public places such as gymnasium locker rooms.
A few strains of HPV can result in infections of the genital area – both externally in the form of genital warts, and internally, where the HPV virus can remain dormant for many years. Genital HPV is a sexually-transmitted disease, and can only be contracted through sexual contact. If you are sexually active, you can acquire the virus from an infected partner at any time.
In the vast majority of cases where an individual contract one of these sexually-transmitted forms of the virus, there is never a symptom. This is especially important for men to know, since they often have no symptoms, and yet can carry a strain of the virus for years or a lifetime, all the while infecting others. There is no test, such as a blood test, with which your doctor can check for the presence of the HPV virus. Rather, it is diagnosed in retrospect, after serious consequences of HPV infection have developed.
There is no cure for HPV. It is not a virus that can be diagnosed definitely and cured with medical treatment. Whether you have contracted the more benign strains which cause warts, or a more serious strain that causes genital warts or complicated health issues for you or for sexual partners you infect, once an individual acquires HPV it will not be cured with medical intervention. Many strains do, however, resolve themselves on their own, in a few months to a few years depending upon the strain. Being aware of the disease, and of the ways in which it can manifest itself, can help you protect yourself and your sexual partners from infection. Safe sex is a must. Treat HPV like you would treat any other serious sexually-transmitted disease. Remember that condom use does protect, but not completely. Abstinence is the only 100% protection from any sexually-transmitted disease, including HPV.
Gay men are not exempt from the problems brought on by possible HPV infection. In fact, in some cases they are in more danger and statistics suggest that they may be at a significantly higher risk for some long-term health complications stemming from initial HPV infection. If you are gay, ask your doctor about what some of those specific concerns are, and about the best ways to stay protected.