The various types of genital HPVs may remain in our body for weeks, months or even many years after the initial infection. HPV-induced inflammatory lesions are usually temporary subclinical inflammations. The term 'subclinical' means that they are not visible to the naked eye. Only genital warts are visible. Subclinical inflammatory lesions can stay on the skin and the mucous membranes of the genital organs and the perianal region for months or years. They regress when our immune system manages to suppress the virus. They reappear if our immune system becomes weaker for any reason during our lifetime (due to stress, certain medications, etc).
These HPV-induced subclinical inflammations of our cells and tissues usually do not cause any symptoms. Therefore the majority of individuals infected by HPV are not aware of it and nor can they know when they were infected. Of course, this means that they transmitted the virus to their sexual partner at a time when inflammatory lesions were present. This is not their fault since they did not know that they were infected.
If you discover that you have contracted HPV and you have had the same partner for a long time, it is most probable that he also has the virus. Your partner may have been infected some time ago or recently and not know about it (since HPV infections usually cause no symptoms at all). It cannot be proven whether you gave him the virus or vice-versa.
We have no laboratory routine techniques to detect HPV antibodies. This is unfortunately the reason that we cannot always know whether someone has a new infection or a recurrence of an old infection.
In a monogamous relationship diagnosis of HPV infection usually creates a problem in the couple's relations. Once the infection is diagnosed in one of the two partners, the other partner worries about the possible existence of a third person.
Discovery however of HPV infection simply means that this person was infected sometime during his or her lifetime. No one can know exactly when or by whom. Furthermore, no one can know which of the two partners infected the other (except in the case where one of the two had no prior sexual activities).
If the new partner has a different type of HPV, the prior infection unfortunately provides no protection.
There is no reason for such feelings. HPV infection is very common, as there is an 80% chance of becoming infected with one or more types of HPV during one's lifetime. The difference between you and other people is simply that you know about it. Most people infected by HPV have no symptoms, the infection is automatically suppressed by their body, and they never know about it. The diagnosis brings anxiety and guilt, even though you did nothing wrong!
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