If you’re diagnosed with human papilloma virus (HPV), you most likely have nothing to worry about. At this point, nearly 80 million Americans are infected with HPV and 14 million more will be infected each year. Considering that there are roughly 323 million people living in America, but only a fraction of those are sexually active, that means that most sexually active people have HPV. Of course, you don’t see people developing cervical cancer at a rate anywhere near that rate. Around 12,000 women develop cervical cancer each year, and it causes just over 4,000 deaths a year. Most cases of HPV are noncancerous and do not even cause symptoms. Any educated doctor today will tell you, if you’re diagnosed with HPV, that you have little to worry about. But not everybody is educated on the matter, so when you tell friends or family you have HPV, they may say some dumb things. Here are rude and simply dumb things people say to those with HPV.
You must have been unsafe
You can contract HPV even if you use a condom. HPV can be transmitted by areas of the body, around the genitals, that are not covered by a condom. So even someone who always takes precautions when having sex can contract HPV and calling them unsafe is simply uneducated.
You sleep with the wrong people
To assume someone with HPV sleeps with promiscuous or “dirty” people is to be naïve. An estimated 80 percent of sexually active people will contract some form of HPV in their lifetime. Some medical professionals believe that, at this point, all sexually active individuals will get it eventually. If you’ve slept with more than two people, there is a good chance you have it—no matter how “clean” those people were.
You must have slept around
Again, considering the prevalence of HPV, having just one partner already puts you at a high risk of contracting HPV. So please don’t slut-shame your friend who has it. On that note, don’t slut-shame anyone.
You’re so unlucky
You’ve seen the numbers. Someone would be lucky to not get HPV. I won’t say it’s normal to get it, but I will say it’s more common than not for sexually active individuals. If over three-quarters of sexually active individuals have it, and you’ve had sex with more than one person, the chances are someone you slept with had HPV.
Aren’t you worried you’ll get cancer?
Yes, your friend with HPV is worried about that. But she doesn’t need you increasing her worries. If her doctor said she has nothing to worry about, then that should be that. She’ll go in for her bi-annual pap smears and keep an eye on the situation.
Why are you telling me this?
Your friend isn’t telling you so you can be the keeper of her dark secret. News flash: most of your friends have HPV and just won’t speak up about it. But it’s good that people talk about it, so they can emphasize the importance of going in for your regular pap smears.
So, you didn’t get the vaccine
You can still contract a strain of HPV, even if you got the vaccine against it. Do not assume your friend was medically irresponsible if she contracted HPV. The vaccine does not protect against all strains of HPV.
I’m not borrowing your bathing suit
There are conflicting answers on whether or not you can contract HPV by wearing the bathing suit or underwear of an infected individual. What we will say is that if you’re uncomfortable borrowing your friend’s bathing suit, don’t borrow it, but don’t tell her it’s because she has HPV. There’s no need to make her feel guilty about something that could happen to anyone (and happens to nearly everyone).
You should tell all your partners
If you ask most doctors whether or not you have to tell your past partners you have HPV, they’ll tell you no. Why? Because unless that partner was a virgin when he met you, and has still not slept with anyone else, he likely carries the HPV virus. He could have gotten it from anyone he slept with, and there is no way of tracing where it came from. So, sure, if you took someone’s virginity and can confirm he has never slept with anyone else since then, tell him. But that won’t protect him from getting it from the other people he’ll inevitably sleep with, who probably have it.
There should be a dating website for HPV-positive people
Fine. But that means most of the sexually active world would be on that site. At that point, it’s just a regular dating site. In fact, if you don’t have HPV, well, first off, congratulations. But just know that if you could only date people who were confirmed HPV-free, your dating pool would be teeny tiny. Don’t be so quick to condemn all HPV-positive individuals to one dating site because you could find yourself pretty lonely.
You should keep that to yourself
Again, it’s so important to spread awareness about HPV. Most cases can be contained so long as they are caught in time via regular pap smears. If your friend is willing to tell you she has HPV, thank her: she was willing to be vulnerable if it meant saving your health.
So, now you can’t have kids
Well, that’s certainly not true. Most cases of HPV do not turn into cervical cancer and even women who do develop cervical cancer have options in terms of still being able to reproduce.
You betrayed me (your partner)
If your partner tells you he or she has HPV, you may feel tempted to behave as if he concealed herpes or Gonorrhea from you. But that would be quite naïve, and a gross overreaction. When someone is diagnosed with HPV, their doctor goes to great pains to assure them it is not a big deal and that it happens to almost everyone. They don’t walk out of the doctor’s office with the same “tell all your partners” speech that those with herpes or gonorrhea do.
So, you have warts and stuff?
Around 60 percent of HPV strains cause warts, meaning 40 percent do not. Just because your friend has HPV doesn’t mean she has warts. Even people carrying the wart-causing strains sometimes never see a wart in their lives, or only have a few breakouts.
I’m so glad I don’t have that
Go to the doctor and get a pap smear before saying that. Don’t assume you do not have it because you don’t have symptoms or haven’t had many sexual partners. Also, don’t see it as a death sentence if you do have it. Get the facts.