Myths & Mis-concepts
Q. When HPV infection is found, does it mean one has cheated?
Not necessarily. HPV can remain in the human’s body for a long time or even a lifetime, showing no sign of its presence. The latency period of the virus therefore makes it hard to back track to a specific partner. Hence, an HPV diagnosis only means the person contracted an HPV infection at a point during his or her life.
Research from our centre and other sources had confirmed that HPV can be found on environmental surfaces for a short period of time (in terms of hours). Also in about 50% of people with HPV in their genital areas, carry HPV on their hands. Therefore in high people travel areas, such as hand rails on MTR, lift buttons, etc, HPV can be found. Therefore, HPV can be transmitted through non-sexual contacts.
Q. Does an abnormal Pap smear mean a woman is at high risk of cervical cancer?
A. An abnormal Pap smear can be due to various factors such as local irritation, infection of a low-risk HPV type, or even a mistake in the preparation of the cell sample. Therefore, an abnormal pap smear cannot be concluded to cancer immediately.
Q. If I have genital warts, does it mean it will recur for the rest of my life?
A. Most people’s immune system will increase against the infected virus, making recurrences less often and may eradicate them entirely in couple of years. However, the virus may remain in the person’s cells in a latent state without producing any symptoms.
Q. Older women do not need to do Pap smears?
A. No. In fact, older women have a high chance of developing cervical cancer due to higher frequency and longer duration of sexual contact. Thus, it is recommended for older women to have regular pap smears.
Q. Will genital warts be no longer contagious after receiving treatment?
A. Removing warts cannot guarantee that the risk of transmission is entirely removed as the area surrounding visible warts may also contain HPV.
Q. If a woman has an abnormal Pap smear, should her male partner also do an HPV test?
A. Yes. If a woman has found to be infected by HPV, there is a good chance of transmitting the infection to her partner through skin contact. Therefore, an HPV test for her male partner is highly recommended.
Q. Can latex condoms provide protection against contracting HPV?
A. No, as HPV is transmitted through skin contact, condoms do not cover up the whole genital area for both males and females during sexual activity and therefore, leaving the uncovered area vulnerable to HPV infection.