HPV Dormancy

I have been happily married to my wife for 15+ years. During that time, we have enjoyed a fully monogamous relationship. Recently, she had a positive result on her regular Pap test after years of normal results. A follow-up colposcopy revealed a high incidence of abnormal cells. She is scheduled to go in for a LEEP next week.

We are both scared and devastated. I don't know how this could happen. I have always been true to her including our dating years before marriage and I know in my heart of hearts that she has too. Certainly before we met we each had a few partners, but nothing since we have been together (18 years)

The literature and research doesn't seem to address our situation. Only that HPV causes the dysplasia and that HPV is transmitted through skin to skin sexual contact. I have found nothing about the gestation or potential latency of the virus which would explain our situation.

I am at a loss. We know that stress is the worst thing for someone in my wife's situation and she needs to be focused on getting better. By the same token, I am afraid of the loss of trust that could result based on everything that I have read.

This is like a nightmare I can't wake up from. I love my wife as much as any man can. Does anyone have any insights on how our situation could happen?

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4 replies. Join the discussion

HPV can lay dormant for decades. And... it can be contracted from petting... you don't need intercourse. I have not been sexually active (not even petting) for 23 years and recently got diagnosed with cervical cancer. That fact that your wife has HPV (and probably you also) only means that the virus laid dormant for quite some time and has now become active. Either one of you could have picked it up before you met... it is a devious little virus.

Please don't let it affect your trust in each other... you will need each other now.


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the hpv infection may have been active for a long while and just now creating abnormal cells being detected. this is one of the many reasons that regular hpv testing along with paps is recommended.

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Hi DevotedHubby,

I just met with a researcher on Thursday who's part of a renown resesarch group with our local university. We discussed the very topic that you raise. And, she specifically talked about the documented instances of where a woman suddenly has an abnormal pap after many years of normal -- and how HPV can re-activate after years of being dormant. And, as flowershoplady mentioned, there's the possibility that HPV has been active, but only recently resulted in an abnormal pap. Until recently, HPV testing was not routine.

Some of us on this site have speculated how hormonal shifts might also activate latent HPV. I'm wondering whether your wife might be experiencing perimenopause (that starts in late 30's early 40's) or has done something different with hormonal birth control that might have activated latent HPV.

HPV is highly contagious and, although sexual transmission is most common, it can also be spread other ways -- and researchers haven't ruled out fomites (which is passed via objects, such as towels).

Also, has your wife had an HPV test, because sometimes (though rarely), other things can cause abnormal cells.

I know you're both devastated, but, your wife's situation is not unusual, and the phenomenom of HPV lying dormant and reactivating many years later is well-documented and well-accepted by the research and medical communty.

Oh... also, you might want to have yourself checked by a urologist. One of the women on this site had her husband checked and they found a lesion that needed to be removed. Although that is not common or likely, it might provide both you and your wife some peace of mind for you to be checked as well.

Good luck to you both!

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First off - thank you all for responding. My wife is away on business right now and I have precious few resources to draw upon in this difficult time. As this all transpired right before she went away, I need to confirm if she had a positive HPV.

When she is back we will simply need to see a specialist and walk through the entire case. But again, thank you for your responses. At least we can know that we're not alone.

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