If you think oral or anal sex is the way to go to prevent the spread of STDs, you could be in for a shock.
Many STDs can be passed along through these types of sex, chief among them is HPV, or human papillomavirus.
HPV is the most prevalent STD in the United States. Over half of sexually active adults have some form of HPV– many of them are considered asymptomatic, meaning they won’t show symptoms. Many catch HPV from sexual intercourse, but it isn’t just vaginal sex.
Recently, cases of oral and anal HPV have been brought to the attention of researchers and healthcare workers. Here’s what you need to know about those two to stay safe.
Not a lot is known about oral HPV infections. Research is currently on-going on how it’s passed along and how to prevent it.
The biggest problem with oral HPV is that, like some forms of HPV in the vagina, it can lead to cancer. More specifically, it can lead to oropharyngeal cancer, which manifests in the back of the tongue and the tonsils.
About 7% of American adults have some form of oral HPV, even if it’s not the ones that cause cancer.
It’s theorized that oral HPV is caught from giving oral sex to an infected person, but there also seems to be some indication that it can be caught from kissing an infected person. Again, we don’t know the actual cause, so it’s best to stay safe during oral sex.
There are hundreds of types of HPV, but the big one that causes cancer is HPV 16. If you have been able to acquire the Gardasil shot, you are protected against HPV 16. There are other types which also cause cancer, but researchers estimate that two in three cases of oropharyngeal cancer come from being exposed to HPV 16.
The worst part? Oral HPV is usually asymptomatic. Meaning that you might not even know that you have it. Currently, we don’t really know how to accurately test for it, either.
This may seem super nerve-wracking. For even those of us who are super good at remembering to get tested, how are we supposed to know if we’ve been infected?
When you can’t know, the best option is to stay vigilant. Either use a condom if your partner has a penis, or dental dams if they have a vulva. The good news is that both come in flavors! Check out our super famous Durex Tropical Flavors and Lixx Dental Dams.
If your partner is HPV positive, staying vigilant is the best course of action, but you can also ask your doctor for testing every time you go in for a check up. This creates a demand which may eventually be satisfied by researchers, and it can also allow you to get tested right away when tests are approved.
Safe anal sex is the best way to keep away anal HPV. You may think that because you’re going in the back entrance, you don’t need to worry about condoms. But the fact is, the anus is very susceptible to STDs and bacterial infections because it tears far easier than the vagina, meaning diseases can have direct exposure to the blood.
Over 95% of anal cancer cases are caused by HPV. Once again, HPV 16 is one of the most common forms which cause cancer, but HPV 18 is also a prominent culprit. Both are, once again, a part of the Gardasil vaccination, but just because you have been vaccinated doesn’t mean you can’t contract other types of HPV that may cause cancer. And vaccination may not be as easy as it seems. Over at our brother site, Condom Depot, one writer wrote about her struggles to get vaccinated due to a surprising problem: her age.
That’s right– if you’re over the age of 26, it can be very difficult for a doctor to consent to vaccinating you, even if you’re at a high-risk for contracting HPV.
Because of the nature of anal HPV, anal cancer can sometimes be misdiagnosed as hemorrhoids. If you have been diagnoses with hemorrhoids that won’t go away despite treatment, you may ask your doctor to reconsider their diagnosis.
Your doctor may then choose to give you a digital anorectal exam, also know as a DARE, which will clear up whether or not you have tumors.
Like with oral sex, you need to be vigilant to prevent anal HPV. Know how to have anal sex safely. Condoms should be your first priority, whether they’re going over a penis or a porous toy. Check out this list of the Best Condoms for Anal from our brother site, Condom Depot.
Also, make sure you’re using plenty of lubricant so that your condom doesn’t have a high risk of breaking. Remember, silicone-based lubes are the best for anal sex because they don’t absorb as quickly as water-based lubes in the anus.
Remember, too, that HPV can be passed on uncleaned toys, so be sure to clean them with every use and avoid porous toys. Learning which material makes up your favorite toy can help you find out the best way to stay safe. We also have a helpful guide to anal toys.