STD Information: Human Papillomavirus (HPV)/
Genital Warts
HPV is probably the most common STD (some estimates say ~70% of all adults have evidence of previous infection), with most infected people never evidencing its two major effects: genital warts, and cervical neoplasia (pre cancerous or cancerous changes, detected as an abnormal Pap smear). It is an STD caused by skin or mucous membrane contact with an infected person. Different strains of HPV cause genital warts and cervical cancer.

  • Transmission WTW: very likely occurs, probably through direct contact of genital skin, or contamination of hands/fingers.  The role of insertive sex toys is not known for sure, but it's possible that HPV could be transmitted on shared toys not thoroughly cleansed between use in one (infected) partner and the next.
  • Treatment: if warts are present, the most common treatment is freezing using liquid nitrogen; more than one treatment may be required. There is no cure for the virus itself.  Pap smears can detect HPV and cervical changes; yearly exams are essential for all sexually active women, regardless of the gender of partners.  Our research and the research of others has shown that lesbians may be less likely to get Pap smears as frequently as they should.  Get routine screening (every 1-2 years, depending on your Pap smear history) regardless of whether you have sex with men!

Please note that for the purpose of our web site we are focusing primarily on woman to woman transmission (WTW) and only providing a general overview of the infections themselves. You may want to check out our Bibliography and Links sections for more in depth information or contact us with specific questions through STD Q&A's.