Ask Aunty Dee: Preventing HPV Transmission

Posted on | January 26, 2009 | 2 Comments |

An ongoing and occasional series, answering questions which have been posed to me. If you have a question you’d like answered (anonymously or otherwise), feel free to email, gtalk, or msn me: curvaceous.dee AT gmail DOT com.

Today’s question is from a long-time polyamorous friend:

My primary partner and I recently had our first foursome! It’s the first time we’ve been involved with anyone else since finding out about my HPV though, and the safety logistics were tricky… I was wondering whether you know what’s safe / not safe to do and how to maximise fun while minimising risk?

Congratulations on your foursome! I hope you all had a marvellous time – and that you enjoyed it enough to want to do it again.

What everyone should know about HPV

HPV is short for Human Papilloma Virus – and there are approximately 30 strains of it which can affect the genital area. People of any gender can be infected with HPV, but there notably more concern about women catching it, as some strains seriously increase the risk of cervical cancer. Other strains can cause genital warts (note: these, while similar, are not the same as HSV/Herpes Simplex Virus/Herpes, which can cause genital sores/lesions and shedding).

HPV frequently has no signs or symptoms, which makes it really easy to pass on to your partners. Often it’s only discovered when women get their cervical smears – it causes an abnormal smear no matter what the strain. However, it can also be tested for during an STD panel, if specifically asked for.

There is now two vaccination against HPV available (Gardasil and Cervarix). These are currently only available for females. If you already have HPV, it’s unfortunately too late to take the vaccination, but what you can is take measures to minimise the likelihood of passing it on to someone else.

How to prevent transmission of HPV

curvaceousdee dental damThe only way to completely remove any chance of passing HPV on is to have no genital contact with anyone ever! However, sensible precautions are probably the way to go, especially given that approximately 80% of people will be infected with HPV in their lifetimes and many will never know it. Your actions will help minimise those numbers, or prevent catching it yourself.

Condoms are an excellent way to reduce the likelihood of transmission, but they aren’t completely effective. As HPV is on the genital area, not just in fluids, it can still be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact of the genitals. That said, don’t use it as an excuse to go without condoms! They are still sensible for use in penetrative sex and fellatio.

For cunnilingus and analingus (rimming), dental dams provide an excellent way of keeping yourself safe while still feeling every delicious bump and curve beneath your tongue. Dental dams are wonderfully stretchy and thin pieces of latex (there are non-latex ones available as well), and they usually come in mild flavours. They’re designed for single use only (and should never be transferred from anus to vagina), and you’ll find nearly all dental dams come with great instructions on how to use them. You can get them at any sex shop, and many pharmacies as well.

And don’t forget, of course, that there are many sexy things you can do that don’t require penetration or even tongue action! Let your fingers wander (use gloves if you want to be extra-safe); enjoy pleasuring your partner(s) with toys; or engage in mutual masturbation and see how they like to get themselves off! There are myriad ways of being sexual together – penetration is not the be-all and end-all, and you can have amazing sex without ever getting ‘groiny’ :)

Other great places to read up on HPV and STD’s – chock full of information about the different strains of HPV, cervical cancer rates, prevention tactics and more.

The Modern Safer Sex Guide, by Violet Blue – this free download is well worth taking the time to read. Covers prevention measures, sexual practices, and STD information.

How You Know You Have HPV – at the Daily Bedpost, Em and Lo explain how to get tested.

What’s So Embarrassing About an STD, Anyway? – Love in the Time of Herpes looks at the shame, marginalisation, and fear many people have when diagnosed with an STD.

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2 Responses to “Ask Aunty Dee: Preventing HPV Transmission”

  1. having my cake
    January 28th, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

    Great post, Dee! Ive been learning a lot about this recently since they have begun vaccinating our girls in the UK against the strains of HPV that are linked with cervical cancer. Originally, the jab was only to be offered to those under 16 because, hopefully, that group would not have had sex yet. However, they have now said that they will still vaccinate women in the 16+ group because, even if they have already been exposed to the virus through sex, they might not have contracted the two or three strains that cause the cancer so it is still worthwhile going through with the injection.

    As an aside, they will not, however, offer these women a cervical smear until they are 25 which leaves a great many of those youngsters with that worry on their mind. Because a small number of women do still die of cervical cancer in their early twenties.

    Yet another reason to hammer home the safe sex message to our young people.

    Gets off soap box.

  2. Curvaceous Dee
    February 2nd, 2009 @ 1:49 am

    Cake, I have to say I’m surprised that we don’t do cervical smears until age 25. Here they recommend(ed) that you get a smear within 3 years of starting to be sexually active (at least, that’s how it was when I first started to get smears myself). I had my first smear at 18.

    I also gather that here you can get the vaccine if you are under 25, provided you don’t already have the strains being vaccinated against. And that you can get the vaccination if you’re older than 25, but have to pay for it.

    xx Dee


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