Can You Really Get HPV From...Yourself?

005_095_SaraKerens-3108_SaraKerensPhotographed By Sara Kerens.
Whether it was our seventh-grade gym teacher or a cheesy late-night PSA, we've all been told that HPV — by far the most widespread STD out there — is most commonly transferred through sexual contact of some sort. Now, we already knew that the virus can be contracted orally, as well as through genital-on-genital action. But, here's where it gets weird. A new study has brought to light a rather scary new aspect of the virus — it may be possible to contract the virus from yourself.
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Researchers surveyed 1000 female college students on their sexual habits through an online questionnaire, then tested them for oral HPV. Certain questions asked about behaviors that researchers believed could result in the transfer of the virus from genitals to mouth. These ranged from "Has a hand, yours or someone else's, ever touched your genitals, and then touched your mouth?" to "Have you ever put your mouth on a sex toy after it had touched your genitals?" Sixteen percent of the women said they had done one or more of these things at some point.
When the researchers combined the results of the survey with the subjects' HPV test results, they found something big: Among the women who answered "yes" to the questions relating to behaviors that could transfer the virus from the nether regions to the mouth, the rate of oral HPV was 6%, versus just 1.2% in the rest of the women. Put another way, the women who engaged in these behaviors were almost four times more likely to have oral HPV than those who did not.
Especially since the HPV conversation largely revolves around cervical cancer and other possible risk factors associated with genital HPV, these results tell an important new story about the virus. Oral HPV has been shown to lead to a number of more serious conditions, including throat and mouth cancer. And, while health officials have long warned that HPV can be contracted through oral sex, these results show that more healthy dialogue about sexual practices — including those beyond what is considered "conventional"—is needed in order to achieve a wider understanding of all the risks involved with this tricky, all-too-common virus. (The Huffington Post).
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