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Living with HPV - What Support is Available?

Knowing that you have been infected with the human papillomavirus can cause many emotions to surface – you may feel anger at the partner who gave you the virus, you may feel embarrassed or guilty that you have HPV, you might be worried about people could say, you might be scared about developing cancer, maybe you are concerned about your sexuality and how the virus will impact your future relationships. These emotions are perfectly normal and they can all be addressed and resolved with professional help.

There was a time when having an STD carried with it a stigma and shame. Fortunately, we are moving on from those times. Improved education and social opinion have made it easier for people who have been infected with any STD, like HPV, to ask for answers and seek support and help. There is help available to HPV sufferers – medical advice and support groups which help you cope with both the physical as well as the emotional aspects of the virus.

The first step you need to take is to get a firm medical diagnosis of your condition so you know for sure what you are dealing with. This will involve an HPV test for women, which is conducted in a similar way to your normal Pap tests. If you test positive for HPV, you will also know what strain of the virus you have and this has a great influence on what will need to happen next.

You may need follow-up tests or medical procedures, but your doctor will explain all this to you. Knowing what the problem is can save unnecessary anxiety and worry, especially if you don't have HPV or have one of the less-dangerous strains.

Learn everything you can about HPV and its potential impact on your life. Ask your doctor as many questions as you can; also ask about being referred to an HPV support group and/or a psychologist who specializes in this type of condition. You might find it easier to talk to these alternative support personnel; it could be less intimidating and they may be able to answer some of your less medical concerns. It is really important that you understand there is no shame in having HPV; you are not responsible, so you don't need to feel guilty.

Of course, it may not be your partner's fault either, as many people are carriers for HPV without knowing they have the virus. HPV can stay in the body for an extended time without showing any symptoms. Talking through these issues with a counselor will help you greatly; suppressing emotions or trying to avoid them isn't the answer and won't help you at all.

Your partner needs to know that you been diagnosed with HPV. While this might seem like an impossible conversation to have, it must be done. Perhaps your doctor or counselor can help you when you tell your partner, by being present and able to answer any of your partner's questions and concerns. There are strategies that will enable you to continue with a fulfilling sexual relationship.

The emotional issues concerning being infected with HPV won't go away overnight, so you may need to continue to talk to someone on an ongoing basis. This is where an HPV support group will be a great help; the people in these groups have been through what you are experiencing and are non-judgmental; you will get practical and useful strategies and advice to help you through this difficult and emotional time.

Ask your doctor to refer you or seek out a local HPV support group in your local phone book, from your local health center or online. One such support group is HPV Hope in Seattle, a volunteer organization that says on its website "We seek to empower individuals living with HPV through knowledge and support."

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