How well do you know your partner?

Sexual Wellness


did u do it last night?
yup was bliss
u r lucky did u use something?
yup r together now
he said that?!
u r still at risk
nah is ok

Actually, neither fidelity nor a condom completely protects partners from the spread of the human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer in women. HPV can spread through skin-to-skin contact from infected areas not covered by a condom during sex, even when there's no penetration. And while you absolutely trust your partner when he says he's always had safe sex, can you trust his past partner and that partner's past partner and so on and so on? The more partners a person has, the greater the risk of getting HPV.

HPV is so common that you're more likely to encounter the virus than a bad job interview. You may be at risk even if you've only had one partner, since your partner may have had other partners with HPV. At least 40 different types of HPV are spread through sexual contact, and the HPV infection is symptom-less most of the time. More than 70% of sexually active Canadians will have had about of HPV in their lifetime. Most cases cause no problems and clear up on their own within a few years; however, certain types that persist are more likely to turn into cervical cancer. Do a little math and you will realize that 3 out of 4 people will have had HPV at some point – and most probably don't even know it. See how HPV can spread among partners by using the "Six degrees of HPV" tool.

Talking about sexual history is never easy. Even if you failed to have the chat before going all the way, make a point of doing so as soon as possible. Finding out how many people your partner has been with can be just as important as discussing whether he's been tested for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you are concerned, consider asking your doctor if the HPV test is appropriate for you (an HPV test detects the HPV types that are at high risk of causing cervical cancer). Bear in mind that this test is not widely available.

Because HPV is very hard to prevent (you'd have to be celibate for life!), it's critical that you get a Pap test every 3 years starting at the age of 21 if you have ever had any sexual skin-to-skin contact. (You need to ask for an HPV test as it is not part of a normal Pap test.) Also ask your doctor about HPV vaccination, which can protect you against 2 of the HPV strains that cause about 70% of cervical cancer.

Remember: the better you know your partner, the safer – and therefore more enjoyable – the sex.

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