Re: How long will I test positive?
Since you have a long history of good paps and your are positive for high risk hpv, PLEASE ask (and I suggest you insist) on your doctor doing an ECC at your next colpo. I suggest this because of my history.
I'll try to give you the nutshell version.
I was diagnosed with cervical cancer last spring (2008). I had a 25+ year history of good, annual pap smears. I'd been with my husband, monogamously, for 15+ years at that point (we're still together). A year and a half ago my doctor (a GP) did my first high risk HPV test. It came back positive, and my pap came back good (as usual). I was really upset about the HPV results and ended up having 2 appointments with her in a 2 week time span just to discuss HPV. She sent me to a gyno for the colpo to basically show me that nothing was wrong. The gyno did the colpo and everything on my outer cervix looked great. She didn't need to take any biopsies. Because of my history of good paps, positive for hrHPV, and a clear colpo she did an ECC (endocervical curettage) "just to check the canal". The ECC is the only non-surgical way to check the cervical canal. The results were back in a week and it showed I had the highest stage of precancer in the canal (adenocarcinoma in situ). The next week I had a cold knife cone biopsy. The next week the pathology report showed that I had stage I cervical cancer (in the canal) (adenocarcinoma Ia1). The next week I was sitting in a gyn/onc office.
The gyn/onc told me how early my cancer had been caught. I realized how fortunate I was to have a doctor who did the HPV test and went ahead and sent me to a gyno for the colpo + ECC. I'm fortunate that the gyno did the ECC, and not just the colpo.
My treatment only involved a hyst to remove my cervix and uterus. It was caught so early that I didn't need chemo or radiation. After only 1 year, my gyn/onc has released me from her care and sent me back to my regular doctor for annual paps (every year for-EVER, but I'm ok with that). She said she doesn't think I'll ever have a recurrence.
There are several things in your story which reminded me of my story. Hopefully your body is fighting the HPV and it will clear. The problem is, that women under 30 are much more likely to clear HPV than women over 30. If you are consistently testing positive for high risk HPV and having good paps, I'd say it is time to ask for something beyond the colpo and get the ECC. It is the only non-surgical way the doctor can sample the cells in the cervical canal. Those cells are different from the ones on the outer cervix.
I hope that helps and I hope that hasn't made you panic.