How long does it take for HPV to show up on tests?

by Rachel on January 15, 2011

My last encounter with my ex was on a Sunday (he has HPV and I don’t). I got an exam and got tested for HPV on that Thursday. Everything came back negative. I was just wondering if the HPV could have been in my system and just not have shown up on the test. How long does it take for HPV to show up on tests?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

5280 January 15, 2011 at 9:17 am

When it comes to viruses that are sexually transmitted I always suggest getting tested a couple months after the last encounter. This is just due to the fact that antibodies need time to form in order for a test to pick up the virus. Wait a couple months and go back into the doctor for a pap smear.

With HPV you can either get the cancer causing HPV of the cervix, or you can get genital warts. Even though gential warts is not something a woman wants, it is actually the better of the two. If you are diagnosed with genital warts then you can’t get cancer from this same HPV virus. If you get the cancer causing HPV you can’t get genital warts from that same HPV virus. Either way, HPV will show up when you do a pap smear no matter what type it is. When a pap smear comes back as abnormal in younger women, normally it isn’t too big of a cause for concern because the immune system will normally fight off HPV within a couple years. Good luck!

Lily L January 15, 2011 at 9:54 am

There is no available reliable way to determine whether you have HPV, for men or women. You cannot get tested. Tge test you had was a very limited one. It requires A LOT of the virus present to be positive and it only tests for certain strains. The HPV test basically only tells you whether you are at risk for cancer. It does not tell you whether you have HPV.

And it’s very common. If you’ve had sex with a couple of people, you should assume you’ve had it at some point.

tarnishedsilverheart January 15, 2011 at 10:36 am

It can take years before abnormal cells are seen on a Pap test. You can have HPV with no abnormal cells seen on your Pap test.

There is a 65% chance that you acquired your partners HPV types after one sexual experience with an infected person.

Most men are diagnosed only after visual warts have been seen. Most often visual warts are low risk HPV types. 20 to 50% of the population with visible genital warts also carry a co-infection with high risk HPV types. The HPV test does not screen for low risk HPV types.

Your Pap test is a screening of the cervix only. No vulva cells are collected with your Pap sample screening. There is no FDA approved HPV screening test for the vulva…as with men…most often HPV that effects the vulva is diagnosed with visual screening only.

HPV can be transmitted during oral sex with an infected partner. Your dentist can screen for oral HPV.

The incubation period from the time of exposure to the appearance of lesions is quite variable, ranging from a few weeks to months, and possibly even years. If either partner has ever had another partner, it may be impossible to determine the source of the initial infection.

However, HPV infection sometimes persists for many years, with or without causing cell abnormalities. This can increase a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer.

Even when someone doesn’t have visible warts (or any other symptom), he or she can still be infected with HPV and pass the virus to somebody else.

Could I have HPV even if my Pap test was normal?
Yes. You can have HPV but still have a normal Pap test. Changes on your cervix may not show up right away; or they may never appear. For women older than 30 who get an HPV test and a Pap test, a negative result on both the Pap and HPV tests means no cervical changes or HPV were found on the cervix. This means you have a very low chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years.

If you have symptoms, they will probably occur 2 to 3 months after infection. But you can have symptoms from 3 weeks to many years after infection.
Visible genital warts appear only during active infection. But it is possible to spread the virus even if you can’t see the warts.

Sometimes genital warts are so small that they can not be seen with the naked eye. Therefore, a person may not even know s/he has HPV and genital warts.
Some people only have one episode of warts, while others have recurrences. When warts are present, the virus is considered active. When warts are gone, the virus remains latent in the skin cells and may or may not be contagious at this time. Warts may appear within several weeks after sexual contact with someone who has a wart-type of HPV, or it may take several months or years to appear. This makes it hard to know exactly when or from whom someone got the virus.

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