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Genital HPV Transmission

Genital HPV infections are most often spread through sexual contact. For this reason, it is considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD). HPV is easily spread between sexual partners. In fact, at least 50 percent of sexually active men and women have been infected with genital HPV at some point in their lives.
The types of HPV that infect the genital area are spread primarily through skin-to-skin contact during sex. An infected person rubs against the skin of an uninfected person and transfers the virus. Almost all cases of HPV are spread through vaginal or anal intercourse. In rare cases, it may be spread through oral sex.
Genital HPV is not always spread through penetrating sex. Some studies have shown that in female virgins, HPV may be spread through nonpenetrating sexual contact.
Between 30 and 40 different types of HPV can be spread through genital contact. Some will cause symptoms, including genital warts (venereal warts). Most HPV infections, however, have no signs or symptoms, so most infected people have no idea. Even if the infected person has no symptoms, he or she can transmit HPV to a sexual partner.
HPV infections usually are not limited to the penis or the vagina. The infection can occur on the skin in the genital area, such as the scrotum, vulva, anus, or the skin between the anus and the genitalia.
Although using a condom is a good idea to prevent transmission of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), condoms may not protect sexual partners from genital HPV transmission and infection. This may be because the condom does not prevent all skin-to-skin contact. The female condom might provide greater protection because it provides wider coverage.
Transmission of genital HPV appears to be high with a new sex partner. This risk is even higher if the partner has been known for less than eight months and if the partner has been sexually active.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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