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Monday, Dec. 11
The Indiana Daily Student

academics & research

HPV can survive on sex toys, even after washing

Even after being washed, a sex toy, such as a vibrator, can retain traces of the Human Papilloma Virus.

A recently published study from the IU School of Medicine found that the more porous the material, the higher the chance of the virus sticking to the toy.

With that knowledge, the study’s researchers concluded that women who share sex toys risk the chance of HPV transmission for as long as 24 hours after a cleaning if one of them has the virus.

Twelve women participated in the study. According to the article, participants were recruited as having had sex with both women and men, which is suggested to increase chances of getting the virus.

Nine of the 12 women tested positive for HPV prior to the experiment. Their nine respective kits were the ones tested for HPV.

Each of the women received a participant kit which contained two vibrators, one made of a thermoplastic elastomer material and one made of silicone, swabs and a commercial sex toy cleaning product.

Women were instructed to use the vibrators intervaginally and alone, on occassions at least 24 hours apart. Before and immediately after cleaning the vibrator, the women were to swab the surface, and then again after 24 hours.

After receiving the used kits in the lab, researchers found the shafts of eight of the nine thermoplastic vibratora were positive for HPV before cleaning, and five of nine were still positive immediately after cleaning. After 24 hours, two of the vibrators still contained
traces of the virus.

The silicone vibrator had better results, but six of the nine of the vibrators contained traces of HPV before cleaning, and four still tested positive immediately after cleaning.

None of the silicone vibrators tested positive after 24 hours.

HPV is one of the most common STIs, with a prevalence rate of 42.5 percent among women between the ages of 14 and 59.

Though mostly benign, HPV can give way to wart growth, or cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, oropharynx and anus. HPV has even been linked to cancers of the head and neck.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the virus causes 27,000 of those cancers among Americans each year.

According to an article about the study, HPV infections have been documented among women who have sex with women. More than 65 percent of bisexual women report sharing their sex toys.

The theory that transmission of HPV can happen when partners share sex toys is supported by findings from other research, according to the article. The virus has been found on clean toilet seats, which suggests HPV is a relatively stable virus that can survive cleaning solutions.

The researchers look to further their study by researching cleaning practices, storage methods and ingredients of various cleaning products.  

Ashley Jenkins

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