What do I need to know about HPV?
What is HPV?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of more than 150 related viruses. It is a common virus that affects both men and women.
About 40 kinds can infect the private genital areas. These kinds of HPV are spread during sexual contact. Other types of HPV infections cause common warts like hand warts and plantar warts on the feet – but these are not sexually transmitted.
There are several high-risk strains which can lead to cancer.
Who does it affect?
HPV infections can affect everyone – both men and women. Anyone who has had sexual skin-to-skin contact, even without any form of penetration, is at risk.
HPV is so common that about 80% of sexually-active adults will contract at least one type of HPV at some point in their lifetime.
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Common myths surrounding HPV
Only women can get HPV
HPV is common among both men and women. About 80% of people will get an HPV infection at some point in their lives.
You must have sexual intercourse to get HPV
HPV is spread by intimate skin-to-skin contact. While most cases are sexually transmitted, people who haven’t had intercourse can become infected. Using condoms help, but they do not completely protect you against the virus. They don’t cover all of the genital skin
If I've always used condoms, I'm not at risk for HPV
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Used correctly, condoms are very effective against STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV that are spread through bodily fluids. However, they are likely to be less protective against STIs that spread through skin-to-skin contact, such as HPV and herpes.
People with HPV show symptoms
Most people with HPV don’t know they’re infected and never develop symptoms or health problems from it.
There are treatments for HPV
There are no treatments for the virus. But there are ways to treat HPV-related health problems, such as precancerous lesions and genital warts.
People who are vaccinated against HPV do not have to undergo screening
Vaccinated people will still need regular screening because the vaccine protects against most but not all HPV types. Also, people who got the vaccine after becoming sexually active may not get the full benefit of the vaccine if they had already been exposed to HPV.