Is my HPV infection an old or a recent one?

The tests we have available can help us diagnose only an active inflammation caused by HPV. The inflammation may be caused by a recent infection or the recurrence of an old one. These tests confirm the presence of HPV at the time the sample is collected (usually cells are collected or biopsies are taken from the uterine cervix).

If the inflammation has subsided and the HPV has been suppressed by your immune system, it is impossible to know whether you have it. You may have been infected by HPV at some time in your life and be unaware of it because you had no symptoms. In most people HPVs cause a temporary symptom-free inflammation.

If a woman knows that she was infected in the past because a Pap-test or biopsies showed an inflammation, this is considered an important information from her medical history. But usually we cannot diagnose an old HPV infection because the virus is sooner or later suppressed by our immune system. There is no test that detects HPV antibodies in the blood (as is the case of infections by other viruses) so we cannot know whether a woman has been infected in the past.