How do I tell my partner about HPV (human papillomavirus)?
Sometimes we all have to face difficult conversations with our partner but truthfulness and honesty is always the best way. How do I tell my partner about HPV?
What is HPV?
HPV sounds daunting, almost like HIV or herpes. Indeed, all three of them have one in common: the stigma.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a term for a group of sexually transmitted viruses. The infection is almost as common as chlamydia if you’re sexually active in the UK. Still, not many people have heard of it.
HPV might lead to cancer or warts outbreaks but in most people’s cases, it doesn’t cause any symptoms and clears up within 2 years. It’s estimated that about 80% of sexually active people are infected with the virus and most strains are harmless. This is why healthcare professionals might recommend not to tell your partner. But should you?
Do I need to tell them about HPV?
It’s likely that your partner either already had the virus or will have it at some point in the future. So is there a need to make things complicated? As tempting as it might be to ignore the problem and avoid possible negative reaction, honesty is always the best policy. While it’s not illegal to keep the diagnosis to yourself, you’re still putting your partner at risk even if you use protection as it spreads via skin to skin contact. By not letting your partner know you’re showing a lack of respect for their health and taking away their right to decide. A person who is right for you will understand and will be willing to learn more about HPV.
Talking to your partner about HPV shouldn’t be a big deal, given how common it is but it’s understandably stressful. Here are some tips that will help you prepare:
Educate yourself about HPV
Before you choose to talk to your partner, put your mind at ease by reading as much as you can on HPV. Stay away from forum threads where people discuss whether they would date someone with HPV and join support groups instead. One of the myths is that HPV means your partner has been unfaithful but it’s not true. HPV can be present in your body long after having sex with an infected person and can be transmitted even if you’d had protected sex. Be ready to give your partner an overview of what HPV is and answer all the questions they might have. Preparation will also allow you to focus on the facts instead of worrying about your partner’s reaction.
Choose the right time to talk
HPV is common and something you shouldn’t be ashamed of but it doesn’t mean it’s an easy or a casual conversation. Try to refrain from taking the band-aid off by saying “By the way, I have HPV” while you’re on the way to the cinema or a family dinner. Plan ahead and set some time aside so you don’t have to rush it. Sit your partner down and explain that there’s an important issue you need to discuss, then go straight to the point. Avoid saying things like “I don’t think we can have sex again” or “I have a problem”. Don’t make it seem like HPV is a big deal. In most cases, it’s not.
HPV might put a stop to your sex life and potentially affect your partner’s health but you did nothing wrong. Don’t apologise and speak in a clear, concise way. HPV is one of the risks you decide to take when you engage in sexual activity and the positive diagnosis simply means you were the unlucky one. if you feel like your partner might jump to conclusions, start by saying “Let me say what I have to say before asking any questions”. Imagine there’s no stigma around HPV and concentrate on the things you want to take out of this conversation. If you decide to share this with your partner, they should appreciate your honesty and help you come up with the next steps.
Discuss the next steps
Focus on your and your partner’s health first. Try to find out if your strain is a high or low-risk strain. If your partner is a woman, she should consider going for cervical screening to rule out the diagnosis. Unfortunately, there’s no test for men so all your partner can do is monitor his health and discuss any news symptoms with a doctor. Additionally, if you’re younger than 26 years old, you might consider getting vaccinated. The next step is to discuss whether to stay away from sexual activity or use protection. If you had sexual contact with your partner before, chances are they’re already infected but they might not feel comfortable enough to willingly put themselves at risk.
If you struggle with communication in your relationship and the idea of disclosing HPV is too much, consider seeking professional help. Contact My Family Psychologist for a confidential chat.