Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Fearing HPV genital warts


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Hi Dr.
         I am a 21 year old woman and For about a month I've noticed small bumps that are flesh colored and raised kind of like skin tags and after doing research I believe it might be HPV. I have been sexually active with more than one partner for the past few months. They dont itch or hurt or get irritated theyre kind of just there. I did do a vinegar compress test for about 60 seconds and to my knowledge the area didnt change color enough to really determine if they are warts. I have an appointment next week but would also like to try this. Earlier in May I did have what I believe was a yeast infection because my vaginal area was itchy but there was no weird discharge and I never had the chance to check it out. After about 2-3 weeks the itchiness snd discomfort did go away on its own but these skin tag like projections have stayed. I think they have grown slightly larger in size but can not conifdently report a 100% yes theyve grown answer on that. Thank you and I appreciate the input.

Hello Blaire,
Yes, they do look somewhat like warts caused by HPV. The best diagnosis is achieved by a knowledgeable health care provider examining the area. Application of vinegar for 30-60 seconds may make warty areas look whitish in comparison to the adjacent, unaffected skin. Sorry if this sounds bad, but HPV usually is easily controllable, although it may take a year or two.  Freezing or chemical applications help your immune system recognize the virus and speed your healing. Note, that 60-80% of all sexually active adults have already been infected with HPV sometimes in their lives, but in most people, they go away without a problem. Sort of like the influenza virus. Almost everyone gets the flu sometimes in their lives, but only a very small minority develop serious complications from the flu. Same with HPV.

Good luck!

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Mark P. Behar


Almost any question or concern about gay men's health issues, sexually transmitted infections, abnormal Pap smears, anal cytology (anal "Pap smears"), etc. There is no such thing as “d/d free” or “clean” (free of infection), so why do so many of us deceive ourselves into thinking that some people are indeed totally free from a potentially infectious disease, like HIV, herpes, hepatitis, syphilis, chlamydia, warts, gonorrhea, etc., just because they say so? Clinical laboratory tests are not perfect, and having a “negative” or “nonreactive” test does not mean that a person is free from infection. Perhaps at the moment the test was taken, the person was uninfected; or, perhaps, the test wasn’t sensitive enough to detect presence of the infection. There is really no way that anyone can determine that they are truly “disease free,” and there are over a hundred of infectious conditions that can be spread without your knowing anything. Rather than trying to “pre-screen” or “serosort” a potential sex-mate with deceptive questions that are impossible to know by today’s technologies, a wiser option may be to consider everyone infected with something, and either use appropriate protective measures (“safer sex”), or accept the responsibility and consequences of possibly “catching” something from someone who’s hotter than expected (pun intended!). There is much research that supports the contention that an HIV positive person reliably taking HIV medications, and having an undetectable viral load, presents a lower risk for transmission of HIV than people who may think or say they are HIV negative, but are not. Food for thought!


Family Practice PA since 1981; Volunteer Clinician for Brady East STD (BESTD) Clinic, Milwaukee, since 1977; answered STD questions submitted to their web site. Professionally lectured at national and regional Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner conferences, and at national gay & lesbian health conferences on topics including HIV/AIDS, herpes, hepatitis, STDs, human papilloma virus (the cause of venereal warts), abnormal Pap smears, gay and lesbian health issues, among others.

Co-Founder, Lesbian, Bisexual, & Gay Physician Assistant Caucus of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, Inc.; American Academy of Physician Assistants; Wisconsin Academy of Physician Assistants; National Co-Chair (2012-16), National Association of Black and White Men Together: A Gay, Multiracial Organization for All People (NABWMT)

Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (JAPA) Q Visions, Quarterly Newsletter of the NABWMT

Bachelor's of Arts, 1972 (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI) Graduate Credits Experimental Psychology, 1972-75 (Tulane University, New Orleans, LA) Physician Assistant, Bachelor's of Science, 1981 (George Washington University, Washington, DC); Masters in Physician Assistant Studies, 2000 (University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE)

Awards and Honors
Colposcopy Recognition Award (CRA), the American Association of Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology; Distinguished Fellow, Clinical Preceptor, American Academy of Physician Assistants; Fellow, Wisconsin Academy of Physician Assistants

Past/Present Clients
Brady East STD Clinic, Milwaukee, WI Milwaukee Health Services, Inc. (Martin Luther King Heritage Health Center), Dept. of Family Medicine and Early Intervention Program for HIV Infected Persons

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