Can I Get HPV if I Don’t Have Intercourse?


There are over 200 different types of HPV virus, and of these about 40 are of the types that are sexually transmitted. Like most other sexually-transmitted diseases, HPV can be transmitted through any sexual contact, including contact with no actual intercourse.

Any person, male or female, gay or straight, who is sexually active can acquire the HPV virus from a partner. Also, any individual who has ever been sexually active in the past can develop HPV-related health conditions such as cancers. These often develop years after the initial infection! And meanwhile, you may not even know that you have been infected.

The sexually-transmissible forms of HPV can be passed from one individual to another through traditional vaginal intercourse, through anal intercourse, or through oral sex.

HPV can even be passed through genital-to-genital contact without actual intercourse.

Unlike HIV/AIDS, it is not a requirement that bodily fluids – such as semen or blood – be shared. With HPV, it is only necessary that particles of the virus pass from the skin of one individual to the skin of another, so transmission can be frighteningly simple.

Since HPV is the most common STD in the world, and since we know that over half the population will acquire it, the chances that any sexually active person is going to be exposed to HPV is very high. Many strains show no symptoms when present, and so you are unlikely to be aware if your partner has HPV either.

Many infections of HPV clear up on their own in a few months, show no symptoms, and cause no lingering affects.

But still it is important to be aware of HPV and protect yourself, because a few strains of the 40 are considered to be high-risk due to their association with various types of cancer. We know that some strains of HPV can lead to cervical cancer, which affects 11,000 women in the U.S. alone every year, and over 400,000 world-wide. Over a third of these will die of the disease!

Since we know that strains of HPV passed through anal sex can lead to cancer of the anus and rectum, it is important to use a condom when engaged in this activity.

We know that oral sex can transmit types of HPV that can lead to cancers of the mouth, throat, neck and head. Because these types of sexual behaviors are so common among gay and bisexual men, and because a high proportion of these men tend to be HIV-positive and therefore have compromised immune systems, the gay population is considered to be at a particularly high risk for acquiring HPV infection.

The only sure way to protect yourself from HPV is abstinence. If you are sexually active, limiting your number of partners, limiting yourself to faithful relationships, and choosing partners who have not had a large number of sexual partners, will all reduce your risk of acquiring a high-risk strain of HPV. In addition, using a condom whenever you engage in any type of sexual penetration – oral, anal or vaginal – will reduce the risk, but it is important to remember that a condom will not protect you 100%. Oral contraceptives and gels will offer no protection against HPV.

Engaging in smart, protected, responsible sex, and having regular medical care, will allow you to be both sexually active and relatively safe from any serious health affects related to the HPV virus.