I'm HPV positive - now what?

HPV (human papillomavirus) is very common, and most infections go back on their own within a fairly short period of time. A positive HPV test does not mean that you have or will necessarily have cell changes that can develop into cervical cancer.

Last updated: 11.02.2019

What is HPV?

HPV is a large family of viruses, and a common sexually transmitted infection.

Some varieties of HPV cause genital warts, while a special group, called high-risk HPV, can cause cell changes. Untreated cell changes can develop into cervical cancer in a few cases.

The HPV test examines whether high-risk HPV types are present in the sample.

How is high-risk HPV transmitted?

The virus is mainly transmitted through sexual contact, and studies have shown that up to 80% of all sexually active people become infected with the virus at some point in their lives.

It is difficult to protect against the virus, even condoms protect only 70% .

The infection is largely without symptoms, and in most women the immune system manages to fight the virus without causing ailments or cell changes.

HPV infection can be detected in women if they are examined regularly with samples from the cervix. There is no routine examination of men.

I am HPV positive, what does that mean?

A positive HPV test means you have an HPV infection in your cervix.

In cases of persistent infection over many years, there is a higher risk of developing cervical dysplasia. Cervical dysplasia usually resolves on its own when the body is able to fight off the viral infection.

Cervical dysplasia is not cancer, but in some, untreated cell changes over time (usually more than 10 years) can develop cervical cancer.

A positive HPV test does not mean that you have or will necessarily have cell changes that can develop into cervical cancer.

The fact that you have a positive HPV test now does not necessarily mean that you are infected recently. It is difficult to find out when you were infected, or who has infected you.

What happens next?

There are good routines for how HPV-positive tests should be followed up. Your doctor knows about these and will monitor you or refer you to a gynaecologist.

It is important that you attend control tests. The follow-up time may feel long, but remember that most infections take care of the body.

Do I have to tell my partner?

You do not need to inform your past, present or future partners.

HPV infections are so common that most people have, or have had, an infection without their knowledge.

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