Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on August 11, 2011

Can I catch genital warts from giving my boyfriend a hand job?

My boyfriend has genital warts. I don’t understand how I could get infected. If I stimulate him by hand (I mean by giving him a hand job), will I get infected...even if I don’t see any warts?

answered by Ruthann M. Cunningham, MD on August 11, 2011

Great question. A lot of people think that hand-to-genital contact is perfectly safe, but there are some precautions people can take to decrease their risk of catching an STD like genital warts...

First, yes: there is a (small) possibility of getting genital warts from giving someone a hand job. The virus that causes genital warts is called human papallomavirus (HPV). Some researchers at the University of Hawaii found that hands can transmit HPV to other areas of the body. So, if you were to touch the genitals of an infected person with your hands, and then touch your genitals or anus with your hands, it’s possible to catch the virus.

Even when the warts are cleared up, an infected person could still pass HPV to you. The type of HPV that causes genital warts can live in the skin without causing symptoms to an infected person. However, it can still be possible to transfer the virus when warts aren’t present.

To avoid catching genital warts, it’s best not to have any sexual activity with someone who has visible warts – and that includes hand jobs. After the warts have been treated and are no longer visible, you can help minimize the chances of your partner passing HPV to you if he wears a condom for all sexual activity. Or, for hand stimulation, you could even wear a latex glove...just make sure it doesn’t come into contact with any other body parts when you’re done. And be aware that no protection is foolproof...any sexual activity with someone who’s infected with genital warts puts you at some risk.  

Also because your boyfriend has genital warts he could easily carry the virus on his own hands. That means that if he touches your genitals with his hands, there’s a possibility he can transfer the virus to you as well.

Finally, I encourage you to consider getting tested for other STDs. People who have HPV tend to have more sexual partners and use condoms less frequently. That means that, at the very least, your boyfriend could be at risk for other STDs and may benefit from getting tested. And if you’re sexually active, you may benefit from STD testing as well. You can get the facts about STD risks in our Expert Guide to STD Basics and read up on HPV in our HPV Overview.

I hope this information has been helpful to you. Thanks for asking a great question that is probably on other people’s minds as well.

Related info:

Ruthann M. Cunningham, MD

Dr. Cunningham is a member of the Analyte Physicans Group. She's also a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, practicing at both Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital in Illinois and at Wheaton Franciscan All Saints Medical Center in Wisconsin. An ER physician since 2000, she regularly treats patients with STDs. Dr. Cunningham was educated at Wayne State University School of Medicine and completed her Emergency Medicine residency at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, IL.

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