“Most people with HPV do not develop symptoms or health problems from it. In 90% of cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV naturally within two years.

Wait, so.. your body will just eliminate it? And it will be gone?

Why does everyone then say that HPV is forever?

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16 Responses to HPV confusion

  1. Eneita says:

    I wonder if it’s because your body would likely have the antibodies in your blood at that point and would recognize it as not friendly (that particular strain, anyway). It’s possibly similar to my dad. He had a blood transfusion during surgery at six weeks old and contracted Hepatitis B from it. If you drew blood from him, it shows that he has the E antigen/antibodies FOR HepB, but doesn’t show the virus as actually BEING in his system anymore.

    Just a theory, but does that help? Hopefully someone else knows more than I do.

  2. NoiFire says:

    That’s what I was thinking.

  3. Enn77 says:

    “Wait, so.. your body will just eliminate it? And it will be gone?”
    Yes, just like your body gets rid of a cold after a while.

    “Why does everyone then say that HPV is forever?”‘
    I have no idea, I don’t think that I’ve ever heard that. Perhaps the person who said that was thinking of some other form of virus, like HIV or HSV (Herpes Simplex virus)?

  4. SguTuT says:

    I’ve never heard it, either. Maybe it’s just misinformation? When I got HPV my doctor told me it’d be gone in two years, and it was.

  5. RetNet says:

    Even my gynecologist has said I will have HPV forever. But everything I’ve read has said its something your body can fight off eventually with a healthy immune system. So I’m still confused….

  6. Hteall says:

    There is debate in the medical community, last I looked, whether “cleared” means “don’t have it anymore,” like you don’t have a cold virus — or if it means “has forced the virus dormant,” more like how HSV is forced dormant by the immune system. Basically, they don’t yet /know/.

    What they do know is that the virus usually becomes Undetectable on tests after 2 years. They can’t say for sure if it could never ever ever return if your immune system gets stressed, but normally the immune system handles the infection on its own. (I have found some studies suggesting that using condoms helps the body clear existing infections; speculation, I believe, is that the condoms prevent new loads of virus being dumped while the immune system is chasing down the current lot.)

    On tablet — please forgive autocorrect errors or typos!

  7. Dekdy says:

    Yup. And just to add to that, this seems to be an area of emerging science.

    I’ve been on VP for something like 7.5 years. In that time, “prevailing wisdom” (as evidenced by sites with good credentials but aimed at lay audiences) has sort of evolved from the one (“even if you no longer show symptoms, HPV is a virus so you have it forever”) to the other (“the body completely clears signs of the virus within about 2 years”).

    So at least in terms of the, “Why have I heard this?” question — Several years ago, this was the best answer that a lot of mainstream health sites had.

  8. YbrZero says:

    Just going to second this comment. I believe you will hear both sides because I think the science community just doesn’t have the exacting info to say completely one way or the other yet. When I was “diagnosed” last year, they told me I had HPV because of an abnormal pap. When they actually DID the HPV test two weeks later it came back negative, leading me to believe that I had indeed contracted it in the past and the lesion found in the pap was just left over from it and was still clearing up.

    Mind boggling stuff, especially when you go to a doctor and they shrug at you saying “Eh, it -probably- cleared up.” c_c

  9. LriYes says:

    I agree with the above comments – & I second the idea that perhaps HPV got confused with HSV (herpes).

  10. Eltoeva says:

    I had the same confusion myself! I was diagnosed with HPV in summer of 2009 and the nurse at the gyno scared the crap out of me: “you can ONLY get it from sex” and “you’ll always have this” blah blah blah. I did the coplo thing a few weeks after I got those results. Then at a gyno appointment in another state (where I moved for a job), I told my doc – at our second meeting to discuss blood results and my first appointment with him – about the HPV and he said that my results came up with nothing of HPV. I was like “…seriously?” And he explained that HPV is a virus, like the flu and the flu virus just doesn’t hang out for so long. So like archangelbeth said, it’s a debate in the medical field, and I guess it really just depends on your own body.

  11. Lanwoa says:

    I am an example of this statistic.

    When I was 20, I had an abnormal pap smear. Needless to say, I was terrified. I was referred to a specialist, and they did a colposcopy. The Doctor said that he thought it would clear up on its own, and that the abnormal cells did not need to be removed. I went back 6 months later and amazingly, it had disapeared! I have not had an abnormal pap smear since. I was very lucky. Now I am very careful and always use condoms.

    That said, it’s important to keep yourself healthy. Most of the time your body will fight HPV off if you are well. Eat well and don’t drink too much.
    🙂

  12. Gni007 says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience! Just in case, though, I feel like I should add that while condoms can decrease transmission risk, HPV is an opportunistic little bugger. It can spread anyway, from skin rather than fluid contact.

    If you really want to avoid ever having to deal with it, there’s a vaccine or never having sexual contact with another human being. Personally I prefer not worrying about it much. 🙂

  13. RetNet says:

    The vaccine isn’t totally proven though, unfortunately. I got Gardasil when I was 17 when it first came out, and still ended up with HPV, even while using condoms. Its so hard to keep away because it can live on the skin in places that condoms don’t cover.

  14. Sseyle says:

    I’m not sure what you mean that the vaccine isn’t totally proven?

    It does not protect against every form of HPV, just the most common types. So even if you get the vaccine, you can still get HPV.

  15. RetNet says:

    This is something I’ve been confused about as well. I was told I have hpv, the type that causes genital warts, and that I will have it forever. But I have read most places that it can be fought off with a healthy immune system. I also had an abnormal pap last week and they didn’t tell me anything about it, just scheduled me for a Colposcopy next Tuesday. I feel like my gynocologist doesn’t give me enough information. I always leave confused.

  16. YbbSuper says:

    Not an expert on HPV or anything, but I have had (am having?) a cervical cancer scare, which is often the result of some strains of HPV.
    But what my gyno told me was that there are many, many, (at least over 80) different strains of HPV and that only a few of them cause worrisome health risks. She told me that more people than you would think will catch one of the strains that your immune system will get rid of on its own, without ever knowing they had it in the first place. Other strains (a small fraction of all) can stick around for a while and cause symptoms.

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