It is possible to get HPV twice, as a person can acquire a different type of HPV the second time. It is also possible for HPV to lie dormant and reappear.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the collective term for a group of more than 100 viruses, and around 30 of these spread through sexual contact.

Most people who contract HPV do not develop any symptoms, though some may develop symptoms years or even decades after contracting the virus.

This article explains whether it is possible for a person to get HPV twice, what to do if a partner has HPV, how long the infection can lie dormant, and more.

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According to the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA), a person who acquires one type of HPV will eventually develop immunity to that type.

This means that if the person encounters that same HPV type in the future, their immune system will recognize it and work to prevent reinfection.

It is also important to note that HPV can lie dormant within a person’s body, sometimes for up to 2 years. During this time, the condition may become active, meaning it may cause symptoms or become detectable on tests for HPV.

As such, a person may think that they have caught HPV again when they are actually experiencing a flare-up of an existing HPV infection.

For example, a 2017 study of genital HPV infections in unvaccinated men found that men who had previously had one type of HPV infection were significantly more likely to develop that same type of HPV infection years later.

This increased risk occurred in men who were sexually active as well as those who were not. The reason for this may be due to reactivation of the dormant virus, or autoinoculation — transferring a disease from one part of the body to another.

Even when a person does develop immunity to one type of HPV, this does not make them immune to other types.

Can you get HPV twice from the same person?

According to ASHA, most sexually active couples share HPV until their immune systems suppress the infection.

They note that sexual partners who only have sexual intercourse with each other are unlikely to pass the same HPV back and forth.

The United Kingdom-based charity Cancer Research UK (CRUK) explains that researchers are still working to understand how HPV reinfection could occur between sexual partners.

As ASHA explains, most people will contract HPV at some point in their life, and very few will develop any symptoms.

Moreover, HPV can lie dormant for years before symptoms develop or before it becomes detectable in the body. This makes it impossible to determine when the person contracted the infection or from whom. Therefore, having HPV is not a reflection on either partner’s behaviors.

A person who learns that they have HPV should inform their partner, as it is highly likely that they also have the infection.

Moreover, certain types of HPV can cause genital warts, and some types can cause changes to the cells of the cervix. According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), both types require treatment.

Human papillomavirus has a dormancy period, during which it is present in the body without causing any symptoms.

According to CRUK, HPV typically has a dormancy period of a couple of years, but it may last for decades.

Dormant HPV is not detectable on a test. It only becomes detectable when the infection is active.

For example, women who undergo cervical screening may test positive for HPV infection despite testing negative in an earlier screening.

This does not necessarily mean that they have contracted HPV since their last screening. It may simply indicate that the infection was dormant at the time of their previous screening but was active during the most recent one.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the body’s immune system usually clears HPV infections naturally within 2 years. After this period, a person cannot transmit the virus to others.

Can HPV come back once it has cleared?

Because HPV can lie dormant and undetectable, it is impossible to say whether the immune system has ever truly cleared the disease.

If a person does test positive for the same HPV infection twice, it could be that their HPV went into a dormant state and has now reactivated, or it could be that they have contracted the same infection again. Scientists are still working to disentangle these two hypotheses.

One thing scientists have established is that a person can contract one type of HPV and later contract a different type. Developing immunity to one type does not make a person immune to other types.

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about HPV.

Can you contract the same HPV twice?

Scientists still do not know whether a person can contract the same HPV infection twice.

The reason for this is that HPV infections can lie dormant in the body and activate many years later. This makes it impossible to tell whether the previous HPV infection has reactivated or the person has contracted the same HPV infection again.

What scientists do know is that contracting one type of HPV infection does not prevent a person from contracting a different type.

What are the odds of HPV reinfection?

Scientists continue to research whether HPV reinfection is possible.

A 2017 study of genital HPV infection in unvaccinated men found that initial infection with the HPV subtype “HPV16” led to a 20-fold increased risk of reinfection 1 year later. This dropped to a 14-fold increased risk of reinfection 2 years later.

However, the researchers attributed this risk to autoinoculation, reactivation of dormant HPV, or both. They did not suggest that it could be due to contracting the same infection again.

Can a monogamous couple get HPV?

People in a monogamous relationship may find that they develop HPV symptoms or test positive for HPV without having sexual intercourse outside their relationship.

A dormant HPV infection can activate years or even decades after a person has contracted the infection, meaning it is impossible to tell when the person contracted it or from whom.

As such, a person who currently has active or detectable HPV may have contracted the infection from a prior relationship. Individuals can develop HPV symptoms even when they are in a monogamous relationship.

Many people contract HPV at some point in their life, and most do not develop any symptoms.

A person can acquire HPV twice. This may be from exposure to another type of HPV.

HPV can also lie dormant and undetectable in a person’s body before flaring up again. This can cause a person to test positive for HPV even years after the infection has supposedly cleared.