I HAVE PAPILLOMAVIRUS, AND YOU COULD HAVE IT TOO

I was sceptical when my STD Test doctor asked me to participate. It’s a blanket screening project for the Papillomavirus. It doesn’t testify to my intelligence, but it seemed like a waste of time. This is despite him telling me about a strong spread of the HPV Test system (Human PapillomaVirus) in the gay male community. I had always linked the Papilloma virus to women.

At the time, I tried to make excuses: I thought the invitation was a way to fuel the hospital’s initiative and make up the numbers. Ultimately, I accepted but was quite disappointed until the result was withdrawn.

Taking care of yourself rarely rhymes with having fun.

The PapPapillomavirus is a genus of viruses belonging to the Papillomaviridae family and is pathogenic only for humans. There are over one hundred varieties of the virus, most of which cause benign STD lesions, such as warts that affect the skin of the hands, feet, or face and warts (or papillomas) that affect the genital and oral mucous membranes.

Most genital HPV infections regress spontaneously, but a small proportion of them, if left untreated, can lead to the development of tumours.

Not everyone contracts it.

But the catch is that STD home tests show that transmission also occurs through direct or indirect skin contact for certain viral types (serotypes and identified with numbers). In other words, the condom is not enough. You can also get it through protected relationships, even if you are unlucky or distracted, even in public bathrooms.

In many cases, HPV Kit tests show that our immune system defeats the virus without causing problems. It is why we pretend nothing happened. In others, however, it remains in our bodies. And can cause serious damage. In Italy, STD Lab Tests show that the Papilloma virus is estimated to be responsible for approximately 6,500 new cases of tumours (in both sexes) every year. Approximately 12,000 high-grade anogenital lesions in women. And at least 80 thousand cases of condylomata (genital warts, the most mildly caused by HPV).

Tumours and high-grade lesions could disappear.

Or at least become rarer—thanks to vaccination, which has been free of charge in Italy for adolescents since 2007 and extended to males since 2007. However, STD Panel Tests reveal that vaccination is only used by 70% of those entitled to it due to a lack of information.

In my case, being a homosexual boy, the Lab test they subjected me to was an anal pap smear. (Among other things, while they were at it, they also STD Kit tested me for chlamydia). It wasn’t exactly pleasant. Let’s say that the sensitivity and delicacy of the doctor who did it to me have ample room for improvement.

A month later, the result arrived: positive.

I have had three HPV strains of the virus: two low-risk and one high-risk. They also found superficial cellular alterations during the anoscopy, and for this reason, they are now on the list for the biopsy. They will have to evaluate the specific type of lesions that the virus has created on me to be able to monitor them and decide if and when to remove them before they generate a tumour.

“It may be that they stay as they are, disappear on their own or progress,” I was told.

Fortunately, anal HPV cancer takes a long time to develop (8-10 years). The doctor assured me to be faithful to my duty as a patient. And get my HPV Home Test checked periodically – she will intervene before it reaches cancer. We will also evaluate the possibility of the vaccine, given that I could also contract other strains.

One of the great misunderstandings about this virus is, as I said at the beginning, that it is a women’s problem. When we hear about papPapillomaviruses, we immediately think of possible cervical cancer. The reality is more complex. There are various Papillomavirus types, some of which also affect men. In 2013, the Guardian reported some statements by Michael Douglas (heterosexual), who attributed his throat cancer to the HPV virus or oral sex. In men, HPV can affect the penis, anus and mouth.

Males tend not to worry about the virus and do not undergo exams.

This is even though the risk of becoming infected (and therefore also being carriers of the virus by infecting partners) is much higher in men than in women. Nearly half of men in the United States have an HPV virus infection.

Still, also perianal area, and therefore, if the genital mucosa comes into contact with the mucosa of the mouth, the virus has a very high probability of infecting.

According to estimates by American researchers, by 2020, oral cancers caused by Viruses will be more numerous than uterine cancers.

Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that there are approximately 12,000 new diagnoses of tests for HPV-related cancers. Every year in the US, over 80% concern males. The STD Full tests show that the risks increase due to two main factors: having oral sex with several partners and being a smoker.

Contracting the Papilloma virus is not rare: in most cases, the infection does not lead to any alterations. It disappears independently, but at other times, it remains and causes dangerous precancerous lesions.

The areas to be checked are the vagina, anus, and mouth.

Knowing if you have HPV (and which strain) is essential for intervening quickly and starting periodic checks. A good way to learn more is to tour the Tucano Mission website, an awareness campaign created by the “National Center of Excellence in Cytology and Histology New Cytology” in Rome.

 When you do this, you always remain at an aseptic level of communication. An information leaflet or a prevention campaign. These are all very important tools, let’s be clear, but they risk passing us by without touching us as they should.

Those dealing with these STD issues should consider more. For example, the power of individual stories and concrete HPV Test reports. And use them to convey the message that people should have engraved in their heads: it’s better to know.

At the time of the diagnosis, I asked the doctor: “Is there a cure?”.

“No, otherwise, I would have already prescribed it to him.” HPV cannot be cured, but it can be monitored, which is already a lot. Feeling nervous at the idea of being touched is more than normal. Or inspected in places where modesty and shame have been taught to us since childhood. Transferring sexuality and certain parts of the body from intimacy to medical HPV studies is unnatural.

We would all happily do without STD h0me tests. We know very well how to make yourself heard. Or of your body, which unfortunately often remains silent until too late.