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Sexual Conditions Health Center

Gay Women Not Immune From Sexually Transmitted Disease

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Salvatore Lococo, MD, a gynecological oncologist at Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital in Texas, says the type of HPV, genetics, and behavior all play roles in how the disease will manifest itself in each person.

"Whether papillomavirus progresses is partially based on genetic predisposition and the type of virus," Lococo tells WebMD. "Starting sexual activity at an early age, having multiple partners, having unprotected sex, and smoking also increases the risk."

The disease is sneaky. It can live in the body for years with no obvious signs of infection, and it may have a very slow progression to the cancerous stage. In addition, years after contracting it, HPV can still be passed on through any type of sexual activity. This includes direct contact of genital skin, contamination of hands and fingers, and possibly even the use of sex toys, according to Marrazzo.

"We have women who have been married for 10 years and they discover they have HPV," Lococo says. "They want to point their finger at their husband for cheating, but one of the partners may have caught it through sexual activity in their teens." HPV could have taken that long to manifest itself.

If HPV is caught early, sometimes it can be thwarted by destroying the warts using drugs, freezing them with liquid nitrogen, or with laser treatment. But this is not a cure, nor does it prevent repeated contamination by the virus.

"If a person is being [reinfected] with the virus by a partner, there is no point in eradicating the warts," says Norman Gant, MD, executive director of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. "It's a difficult disease to catch without screening. Even if warts do appear on the cervix, they are difficult to see. If they are on the skin or the vulva, then they will show. But this is both the good news and the bad news: You know you have the virus."

Gant, also a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, warns that if someone has one sexually transmitted disease, then they probably have more than one. So having HPV could put you at higher risk for contracting HIV.

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