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Old 11-15-2009, 03:29 PM
sunnydee sunnydee is offline
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Default HPV - Shouldn't we talk about it?

I really hate to do this, but...

as far as I could find, there was only one other thread here that mentioned HPV and it was extremely limited, and yet, people who are new to poly (especially those who haven't started meeting new partners yet) really might like to have this information. I know I wish I had.

So why don't we talk about it? I think that's probably pretty obvious. First of all, few people know much about it because we don't talk about it. Second, it's a virus that "everyone" has, can't really be tested, can't be treated, can't be traced, and (usually) goes away on it's own, so why worry about it? I get that. Totally. Believe me, I'd really like to not be worrying about it. But....

Here's the deal.... if you are a woman who is new to poly, like I am, AND you've been monogamous pretty much forever, AND you're older than mid-twenties (a pretty common demographic as people often move into this in mid-life after their kids are grown) you are suddenly going to encounter something that you may never have known existed before and this lifestyle quite suddenly catapults you into the highest risk group for some potentially nasty stuff. (Yes, the chances are relatively low for the population in general, but not that low for this demographic in this lifestyle.)

Yes, indeed, I'd love to not know this and I'm sure you would to. But we're about openness and honesty and giving other adults the information they need to make their own decisions.

So, I'm bringing it up. I don't believe in scaring people needlessly, but I do believe in honesty:

HPV is a large group of very common viruses that affect mucous membranes, that means genitals and mouths.
HPV is spread through skin to skin contact, that means condoms don't prevent it.
HPV is carried by a huge percentage of the population, especially those with multiple partners, and most never know they have it.
HPV infections that the body does not manage to fight off for a long period of time are the cause of cervical, anal, and some oral cancers.

The conservative and prudent advice given to women who are exposed to multiple partners who might carry different strains of HPV is that they get regular PAP smears so that any problems caused by HPV are detected early.

These are a few basic facts. There are many implications that people new to poly might want to consider when making reasonable decisions about managing their risks. Shall we talk about it?
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  #2  
Old 11-15-2009, 04:41 PM
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MonoVCPHG MonoVCPHG is offline
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I think it's great to discuss safe sex but I see HPV being in no special category; considering the prevalance of herpes.

"There's no reporting system for herpes in Canada, but figures from the US suggest that genital herpes affects about 25% of women and 20% of men. In other words, approximately 1 out of every 4 women and 1 in 5 men have been infected.1 out of every 4 women and 1 in 5 men in canada have been infected with genital herpes."

http://bodyandhealth.canada.com/chan...ation_id=10884.

You bring up a good point about this issue but I am disturbed by the statement "Yes, the chances are relatively low for the population in general, but not that low for this demographic in this lifestyle"

Although poly can be used as an excuse for a "moralistic free for all fucking lifestyle" I don't think the poly community in general has this aproach and is less at risk than those casually dating/picking people up at bars.

Sorry if I seem defensive but I spent alot of time defending poly and I am sensitive to anything that perpetuates the judgemental ideas of those who would attack poly rather than accept it.

Peace and love
Mono
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Last edited by MonoVCPHG; 11-15-2009 at 05:42 PM.
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Old 11-15-2009, 04:57 PM
Ceoli Ceoli is offline
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I would agree that being poly does not catapult you into the highest risk group. Being irresponsible does.

Also, I really have a pet peeve when people keep calling polyamory a "lifestyle". Lifestyle suggests that poly people dress a certain way, buy the same things, follow the same entertainment and politics, etc. To me, it's a way of structuring relationships not a "lifestyle".

It's kind of like saying "the monogamous lifestyle". It comes with a ton of assumptions that really don't apply to the vast diversity of people who identify in that group.
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Old 11-15-2009, 05:02 PM
Quath Quath is offline
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I think it would be helpful to have thread that deals with sexual diseases. When I grew up, the basic advise I was given is "avoid AIDS and herpes." All other diseases were ignored or assumed to go away with penicillin. The rules of thumb were basically, "look for spots or sores and if you see none, it is probably ok."
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Old 11-15-2009, 05:09 PM
sunnydee sunnydee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MonoVCPHG View Post

Sorry if I seem defensive but I spent alot of time defending poly and I am sensitive to anything that perpetuates the judegemental ideas of those who would attack poly rather than accept it.

Peace and love
Mono
Don't worry, Mono. I'm totally pro-poly and I'm very sensitive to the issues that this sort of thing creates for a community. There's the same danger that we see with intolerant people thinking HIV is a "gay disease." It's a very destructive idea. But I think that the refusal to think about it may be a danger too. In any case, in talking about a health issue, I don't think we need attach any moral judgments or labels to anyone (including people who pick people up in bars).

I don't have any problem using whatever language people prefer. I don't think that poly "lifestyle" means people all buy the same things. I think of it probably more as a philosophy or something probably. But, really, I'm new, so I respect whatever language you all feel comfortable with.

Now, I need to repeat and emphasize, I am extremely ambivalent about talking about or even knowing about this. It's scary and, for many people, may be needlessly scary, not because it isn't a risk, but because it's a risk that there is very little we can do about. I'm very ambivalent about knowing something scary that we can do little about. But there are some things that people, especially women, might want to know and maybe can do and when I entered the poly-world, I asked quite a few people about risks, and this was NEVER mentioned. At all. That doesn't feel right to me.

HPV is considerably more common than herpes (estimates say 50-80% of sexually active adults will have it) and can't be detected by the person who has it the way herpes can be. It is true that not all strains are actually high-risk and that most people will be able to rid themselves of the virus over time. It appears, also, to be true that once you've fought off a strain you won't get it again, but that can take many months to a couple years. People with lowered immune systems or people who are exposed to multiple strains may be less able to fight it off. Let's say this, too. The chances of dying from an HPV caused cancer, for women who get regular PAP smears and follow-up treatment, is relatively rare in the developed world, but the treatment and worry that are associated with this are not trivial. As people make decisions, they might want to know about this risk. Again, they might not. I understand that.

Also, I'm sure you are right that being poly in some circumstances brings no more risk than anyone else, maybe less, because for some people, they are even more careful and will end up with fewer partners overall. But I can imagine people who are just entering the lifestyle (or what?) might be at more risk. How many people new to poly who've had no more than a few partners in life are introduced by an experienced poly person who has a large network of potential exposure?

Has anyone had any experience with HPV?

Last edited by sunnydee; 11-15-2009 at 05:32 PM.
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Old 11-15-2009, 05:22 PM
sunnydee sunnydee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ceoli View Post
I would agree that being poly does not catapult you into the highest risk group. Being irresponsible does.
I retract the word "catapult," however, this could be a bit of a problem with language also: You do NOT have to be irresponsible, at all, to get a high-risk strain of HPV. You can check histories, tests, and use condoms, you can not even have intercourse, and you can still get it, and it's not even that unlikely.

Last edited by sunnydee; 11-15-2009 at 05:34 PM.
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  #7  
Old 11-15-2009, 05:31 PM
Ceoli Ceoli is offline
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Well, the thing is that there isn't really a high risk category for contracting HPV. It's not even always sexually transmitted. You can pick up the virus just by touching something that's been touched by someone with the virus. Being part of a high risk category and contracting a high risk strain are very different things. The high risk strains are strains of the virus that are more likely to develop into cervical cancer.

They're now vaccinating younger girls against certain strains of HPV and there is a vaccine in development for boys as well. It would be nice to have more general access to the vaccine for all adults.
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Old 11-15-2009, 05:44 PM
Ceoli Ceoli is offline
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Also, it should be noted that you can test for HPV, however pap smears do not do that. Pap smears look for abnormal cells on the cervix which can be caused by HPV, but it doesn't test for the virus itself. ThinPrep does test for the actual virus. There are also additional HPV tests that are less invasive being developed. It seems that pap smears will soon be a thing of the past.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/169107.php
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Old 11-15-2009, 05:52 PM
sunnydee sunnydee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ceoli View Post
Well, the thing is that there isn't really a high risk category for contracting HPV. It's not even always sexually transmitted. You can pick up the virus just by touching something that's been touched by someone with the virus. Being part of a high risk category and contracting a high risk strain are very different things. The high risk strains are strains of the virus that are more likely to develop into cervical cancer.

They're now vaccinating younger girls against certain strains of HPV and there is a vaccine in development for boys as well. It would be nice to have more general access to the vaccine for all adults.
Good points.

The only "high risk category" named is people with multiple partners, which is what I was addressing. This would really probably not be a problem at all for a monogamous couple, even in a new relationship. Even if they got it, they would probably both fight it off and be clear of it with time.

Except for sex toys actually in use at the moment (and they're not sure about that), there's no real evidence that you can pick it up from objects, skin to skin contact is said to be required, so that's probably good to know.

The vaccine for young girls is one of the reasons I bring this up. First, it protects against only 4 of the most common strains, 2 of the cancer causing ones and 2 for warts. Older women are never offered this vaccine. I'm not sure if that's just because it's considered too late (since anyone who's had sex is considered exposed) or if there's some other reason. If it's just the former, then an older woman embarking on a new .... set of choices for her life?... might want to find out if this vaccine could help to protect her.

Right now, in the U.S., HPV testing isn't even offered routinely and anal PAPs are practically unheard of. We are, unfortunately, at one of those gaps that medical science goes through at times, where we have enough information to recognize a problem and aid research but not really enough to be useful for most people (in this case, it seems older women are kind of caught in this gap). Again, the source of the ambivalence. Sigh.

One of the reasons a woman might want to know this is that IF she were to be found to have active HPV, she might want to limit her exposure to other strains that could make it harder for her body to fight off the one she has. There is also some evidence that while condom use can't prevent it, it may reduce the risk and there is one study that showed it may seriously reduce the risk of cervical lesions developing if HPV is present. Poly women considering becoming fluid bonded may want to know this.

Last edited by sunnydee; 11-15-2009 at 06:00 PM.
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Old 11-15-2009, 05:57 PM
Ceoli Ceoli is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunnydee View Post
Except for sex toys actually in use at the moment (and they're not sure about that), there's no real evidence that you can pick it up from objects, skin to skin contact is said to be required, so that's probably good to know.
There is evidence to suggest that it can be transmitted without skin to skin contact but how often that occurs is hard to track.

Viri by their very nature are tricky things and most species can survive outside of bodies for a considerable period of time.
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