What is it?
A viral infection with over 40 types that can infect the genitals, anus, or throat. Some types of HPV can cause warts and cancer.
How common is it?
More than 50% of sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives. An estimated 6 million new cases occur each year, with at least 20 million people already infected.
What are the symptoms?
Most infected people have no symptoms. But some HPV types can cause genital warts– small bumps in and around the genitals (vagina, vulva, penis, testicles, and anus, etc.). If they do occur, warts may appear within weeks or months of having sex with an infected partner. Cancer-causing HPV types do not cause symptoms until the cancer is advanced.
How do you get it?
Through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can also be passed on during skin-to-skin sexual contact, and in rare cases, from mother to child during childbirth.
How do you treat it?
There is no cure for HPV (a virus), but there are ways to treat HPV-related problems. For example, warts can be removed, frozen off, or treated through topical medicines. Even after treatment, the virus can remain and cause recurrences (warts may come back).
What are the consequences if left untreated?
Genital warts will not turn into cancer over time, even if they are not treated. Babies born to women with genital warts can develop warts in the throat. Cancer-causing HPV types can cause cervical cancer & other less common cancers (like anal cancer) if the infection lasts for years. Cervical cancer is rare in women who get regular Pap tests.
Get Yourself Tested
All sexually active women and women over 21 should get regular screenings for cervical cancer (Pap test). There is an HPV test for women but it is not commonly used and pap tests are the best way to be screened. There is currently no HPV test recommended for men. See a health care provider if you think you may have genital warts.
Can it be prevented?
HPV vaccines are available for both males and females, and are the best way to protect against some of the most common types of HPV. Teens, women up to 26, and men up 21, should get all three shots before becoming sexually active. Abstaining from sex and sexual contact is also a good way to avoid getting an STD. If you are having sex, using condoms every time reduces the risk of contracting STDs, but HPV can still be transmitted in areas not covered by condoms.
If you are sexually active, using condoms consistently and correctly, from start to finish, is one of the best ways to help prevent STDs. Condoms are the ONLY method that protects sexually active people from both STDs and pregnancy.