What are Genital Warts?
Genital warts are small fleshy growths, bumps or skin changes that appear on or around the genital or anal area. Genital warts are the result of a viral skin infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They are usually painless and do not pose a serious threat to health but can cause distress and can be easily spread to other people.
Any skin to skin contact, including oral and anal sex with a person who has warts can result in transmission, even if warts are not visibly present.
Take a look downstairs at your cock and balls – grab a mirror and take a peek at your arsehole. Warts are small growths often rubbery to touch, it may look like you are starting to grow cauliflowers on your cock, balls or arse. Warts usually grow about 2 to 3 months after infection, but may take longer.
If you can see them, get them sorted out. Go to a GUM clinic. There are numerous ways to get rid of them, so let a professional advise you on what they think would be best. Warts can be frozen, lasered, zapped or cut off by a professional. There are also some creams which can help.
Some strains of the HPV virus have been associated with abnormal cell changes which are associated with cancer. Gay and bi men are much more likely to develop these abnormal cell changes and cancer than other men; it is even more likely for HIV positive guys.
There is currently no way to screen for these cancers, guys can check themselves for lumps, bumps, swelling, irritation and abnormalities around the anus.
See a doctor if you are worried about any changes.
Using condoms is one way to prevent transmission, but these are not 100% effective as warts can be spread via any skin to skin contact. Condoms will reduce the risk in catching HPV/warts by 40% and therefore also reduces risks with associated cancers.
There is a vaccination to help prevent some strains of the HPV virus which are most associated with causing cancer in men. Gay & Bisexual Men & Trans people having sex with men, are eligible to get the vaccine for free on the NHS up to the age of 45. We can provide you with information or referral to get the vaccine if you live locally or you can pop into any GUM clinic and ask there.
The HPV vaccine is given as 2 injections into the upper arm spaced at least 6 months apart. It's important to have both doses of the vaccine to be properly protected. MSM and Trans people who are living with HIV, or have a weakened immune system (immunosuppressed) need to have 3 doses of the HPV vaccine.
For guys with HIV or others with a compromised immune system, the speed at which warts grow increases. Some creams may also prove to be less effective in treating warts and clearing them can be harder. There may also be an increase in the amount of cell abnormalities and therefore a higher risk of cancer.
Where can I test?
If you think you may have genital or anal warts visit a GUM clinic