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Pap test

I had an abnormal Pap, did I give my boyfriend HPV?

I had my Pap test a month ago and just received a letter saying my Pap test is unclear, I MAY have changes in my cervix cells, and I need to get checked again. I’m scared because the night before I got the letter, my boyfriend and I had sex. Now I’m freaking out that I’ve given him HPV.

Expert answer

Women can have unclear Pap tests for many different reasons. Sometimes HPV-related cell changes are the cause, but other causes such as yeast infections can also result in an abnormal Pap test. To help sort it out, it’s not uncommon to repeat the Pap test in a few months or, sometimes, to do an HPV test. Even when HPV is involved, 90% of infections clear up on their own within 24 months, particularly in women younger than 30 years of age.

What if you do have HPV, though? Well, nearly about 80% of sexually active people have at least one HPV infection in their lifetimes. The virus is most often harmless and the immune system usually does clear it naturally, but it’s important for people with a cervix to have regular Pap tests and, when appropriate, HPV tests. Women age 26 and under should also talk with their health care provider about getting an HPV vaccine. If you follow-up with your clinic as they recommend, it’s likely you’ll be fine.

As for your partner: Most sexually active men have HPV at some point, too, and the virus is usually silent and harmless. There’s no specific test recommended for men who have no symptoms. However, consistent condom use has shown to significantly reduce the risk of transmission of HPV. And men can get the HPV vaccine too. So, follow up on your test as recommended by your clinician and don’t get over anxious!

–Shobha Krishnan, MD