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Dating and HPV

Posted on: Thursday, 22nd February 2024 by Rachel, Media Volunteer

“In 2015 I went for my first cervical screening. It was a bit uncomfortable, but the result showed everything to be clear. Things changed when I went for my second in 2018. My results letter said HPV positive with moderate cell changes. 

I had no idea what this meant. My first reaction was panic, and that cervical screening was a test for cancer. My letter was full of medical jargon that I didn’t understand. So, I went to Google. Most people would recommend staying away from Dr Google, but I was lucky I found Jo’s in my search. Finding out the facts about HPV helped me a lot. Also having the support of family and friends helped as well. I remember reading my letter and calling my best friend and just crying because I had no idea what it all meant. When I realised that it’s really common and that eight in 10 people will have it in their lifetime, I knew I wasn’t alone. 

Since my diagnosis, I have been attending a colposcopy every six months for the last four years. I have remained HPV positive throughout this time and my cell changes have been down and up. Following four years of conservative management and another recent medical diagnosis, this year I will undergo a small procedure called large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ) and that should hopefully remove the HPV infection and abnormal cells. 

Since the diagnosis and everything else that is going on, dating can feel a little daunting. I’ve never really been sure if or how to bring it up, but I know that if you feel comfortable with the person, you’re with, then talking about it is best. That’s my big piece of advice for anyone who has just received their HPV positive letter – talk about it, talk about your feelings, and normalise it. It’s the only way to reduce the stigma surrounding HPV.

I think the stigma can often come from misinformation. Like did you know you can get HPV regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, and it’s a misconception that you only get it through penetrative sex. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust’s information was really helpful in separating the facts from the myths. It is also a myth that if you get diagnosed with HPV whilst you are in a relationship, it means someone has cheated. HPV can be inactive in your body for a long time without causing any problems and it can’t be detected with a test. But it can then wake up years later and subsequently be found with a test (your cervical screening appointment). This makes it really difficult to know when someone got HPV and who from. Also, currently there is no test for men to determine whether they are HPV positive or not. 

Jo’s also helped me understand that there is no medical advice when it comes to HPV and relationships. It’s up to you whether you tell your partner or not. And if you do tell your partner, it might help to tell them that HPV is very common in women and men who have ever had sex. You can also read Jo’s info with your partner if you want to tell them about it and give Jo’s helpline a call if either of you have any questions. But if you are worried about passing it on, condoms and dental dams will reduce risk of giving HPV to partner but it’s important to remember that they don’t offer 100% protection.”

Thank you to Rachel for sharing her experience of receiving an HPV positive diagnosis and how it has impacted her dating life.

Learning about HPV can be scary and it’s okay to be worried or upset if you find that you have HPV. But Jo’s is here to help. We’ve lots of trustworthy information on our website and free support services you can use if you have questions or concerns. Find out more about HPV > https://www.jostrust.org.uk/information/hpv 

If you are a partner of someone who has received an HPV diagnosis, it’s okay to feel worried too. Learning more about HPV and understanding the myths around HPV can help ease some of the worry. Find out more about HPV myths >