HPV Infects Both Men and Women, but Men Are Not Tested For This STD

HPV Infects Both Men and Women, but Men Are Not Tested For This STD

Many peo­ple have heard of the sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted dis­ease – HPV or human papil­lo­mavirus – which both men and women can be vac­ci­nat­ed for. How­ev­er, for now, detec­tion is only pos­si­ble in women, not men. Why is that, if it’s a sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted dis­ease? That’s a good ques­tion, and to under­stand the rea­son­ing for it, you have to first under­stand­ing the par­tic­u­lars that com­prise of HPV

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion said one in four peo­ple (80 mil­lion peo­ple) are infect­ed with HPV, mak­ing it the most com­mon STD infec­tion there is. 14 mil­lion new peo­ple are infect­ed with the STD every year. Though con­doms can reduce the rate of trans­mis­sion, there is no fool­proof pro­tec­tion against it. 

What makes this STD dif­fer­ent is that you don’t even need to have sex to get it. Accord­ing to a 2015 stud in the Sex­u­al Health jour­nal, HPV is trans­mit­ted in many oth­er ways like from hands that have touched gen­i­tals. The research dis­cov­ered HPV was in the gen­i­tal tract of more than 50 per­cent of vir­gins. Still, HPV does spread from sex­u­al inter­course – be it anal or vagi­nal. It is pos­si­ble to get it from oral sex as well. 

A per­son with HPV may not even know they have the dis­ease, show­ing no symp­toms such as gen­i­tal warts. You could have it for years before symp­toms rear their ugly heads. This means you can’t know for sure who you caught it from and you don’t know who you gave it to. 

Sim­ply put, the num­ber of peo­ple with HPV could be much, much high­er than being reported. 

Although HPV is com­mon, it’s still a mis­un­der­stood dis­ease and car­ries a major stig­ma. The prob­lem with HPV is that it affects both men and women, lead­ing to anal and cer­vi­cal can­cers. If that’s the case, one has to won­der why men are not test­ed for HPV, spread­ing it to women with­out them even know­ing they have it. 

Var­i­ous Types of HPV

There are lit­er­al­ly dozens of HPV strains, with more than half of the 100+ strains being trans­mit­ted through sex­u­al con­tact. Med­ical experts believe all sex­u­al­ly active adults will con­tract some form of HPV in their life. For the major­i­ty of peo­ple, the body can fight against the virus and get rid of it with­out caus­ing fur­ther harm. 

Based on infor­ma­tion from the Foun­da­tion of Women’s Can­cer, the aver­age HPV infec­tion is any­where from four to 20 months and can clear up on its own in two years’ time. 

There are two groups of HPV – low and high risk. Low-risk HPV caus­es the anal or gen­i­tal warts; high-risk HPV caus­es the can­cers. Con­sid­er­ing the CDC says the major­i­ty of cer­vi­cal can­cer is the result of HPV, not test­ing men for HPV puts women’s health at risk.

What Are The Com­pli­ca­tions of HPV?

With so many kinds of HPV, the chances of being diag­nosed with anal, cer­vi­cal or oral can­cer are increas­ing. Men who have HPV could have gen­i­tal warts, but it could also lead to can­cer of the anus, penis or throat. The HPV that caus­es can­cer does not have any out­ward symp­toms like warts but may have oth­er symp­toms like itch­ing, pain, anal bleed­ing, dis­charge, etc. 

The symp­toms of penile can­cer may include an unusu­al growth on the penis, col­or changes, thick­en­ing of the skin, etc. A per­son with con­stant ear pain or sore throats could have can­cer of their oropharynx. 

A study on 18 to 69-year-olds found that oral HPV is on the rise for Amer­i­can men, which can also cause neck and head can­cer. Oral HPV is the result of oral sex with an infect­ed per­son and affects the throat and mouth. Oral HPV is far more com­mon in men than in women – 11 mil­lion men have it while just 3.2 mil­lion have oral HPV

Health experts said there is no cur­rent test for oral HPV and no way to stop its trans­mis­sion even when a con­dom or den­tal dam is used. 

Again, why not HPV for men is avail­able baf­fles peo­ple. After all, it’s clear that men can get the dis­ease too and suf­fer its con­se­quences. Why is there no test for it?

What Experts Have To Say About It

With no offi­cial HPV test for men is avail­able, it means detect­ing it isn’t easy either. Doc­tors find HPV in women dur­ing a pap smear. How­ev­er, men do not under­go any kind of reg­u­lar gen­i­tal exam, and there isn’t an approved HPV exam for men either. Men who have HPV show no out­ward symp­toms, and it’s not easy to detect them on their genitals.

Anato­my may be the rea­son there is no HPV test for men. For instance, the tis­sue of the penis and anus are much tougher than the tis­sue in the cervix. The cervix can be swabbed in a Pap test, but this is not the sit­u­a­tion for an anus or penis. Of course, anal Pap smear test­ing can be done on men who have anal sex on a reg­u­lar basis or who fall into the high-risk category.

Still, some experts believe that an HPV test for men does exist – a biop­sy of the patient’s gen­i­tal, anal or oral regions that is then sent off to pathol­o­gy for exam­i­na­tion to con­firm an HPV infec­tion. If pos­i­tive for an infec­tion, then the kind of HPV can be made.

Fur­ther research is being car­ried out to ensure HPV male test­ing is acces­si­ble for more men. For exam­ple, Johns Hop­kins researchers have come up with blood and sali­va tests that can help pre­dict relaps­es of HPV-relat­ed oral can­cer, which is also being used to diag­nose peo­ple with HPV oral infections. 


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