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Ask the expert HPV
Last updated January 27, 2020. 2 minute read

Does human papillomavirus (HPV) go away on its own?

“Most HPV infections will spontaneously go away via the immune system within two years on their own. There’s isn’t a specific thing you can do to speed up the process. If you have genital warts or those types of lesions, those can be surgically removed. But the virus itself may persist, even after the warts have been removed.”

Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, MD

Amesh A. Adalja, MD, FIDSA, FACP, FACEP, is a board-certified infectious disease physician and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Reviewed by Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH

Q. Does HPV go away on its own?

A. Most HPV infections will spontaneously go away via the immune system within two years on their own. There’s isn’t a specific thing you can do to speed up the process. If you have genital warts or those types of lesions, those can be surgically removed. But the virus itself may persist, even after the warts have been removed.

If you are known to have HPV-related diseases, you can practice safe sex. Condom use can reduce the risk of HPV infection. But some genital warts or HPV-affected skin may not be covered by the condom, so it won’t be ironclad.

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If you’re female or an HIV-positive man who has sex with other men, it’s a good idea to follow the proper HPV screening protocols*. Practice safe sex. And talk to your doctor about whether the HPV vaccine may be appropriate for you. We recommend vaccinating up to the age of 26, but it is licensed up to the age of 45. (It just may not be covered by insurance to that age.) You can get that vaccine through your doctor if you both deem it something you would benefit from.

The vaccine covers nine different types of HPV; there are some that more commonly cause certain types of cancer. So even if you’ve already had one type of HPV, you may benefit from discussing vaccination with your healthcare provider.
– The U.S. Preventive Services task force recommends that women age 21 to 65 get a Pap smear every three years, or a combination of a Pap smear and HPV test every five years.

* – The U.S. Preventive Services task force recommends that women age 21 to 65 get a Pap smear every three years, or a combination of a Pap smear and HPV test every five years.