According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV is the most common STI right now. HPV is so common that at least 50% of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. There are more than 40 kinds of HPV that can infect the genital area of both men and woman. Most people who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it.
How you get it:
Genital contact, which includes vaginal, anal and oral sex. HPV does not discriminate; everyone, gay or straight, black or white, male or female, can get HPV. It is possible to have HPV and not know it since symptoms are usually mild.
In 90% of the cases, you won’t even know you have HPV. The body’s immune system can clear out the infection naturally over the course of 2 years in many cases. However, serious complications can arise including cervical cancer and others in the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx (back of throat including base of tongue and tonsil), genital warts and rarely, warts in the throat.
Treatment and Preventative
The vaccines are given in three shots. It is important to get all three doses to get the best protection. The vaccines are most effective when given at 11 or 12 years of age.
- Girls and women: Two vaccines (Cervarix and Gardasil) are available to protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. One of these vaccines (Gardasil) also protects against most genital warts. Gardasil has also been shown to protect against anal, vaginal and vulvar cancers. Either vaccine is recommended for 11 and 12 year-old girls, and for females 13 through 26 years of age, who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. These vaccines can also be given to girls beginning at 9 years of age. It is recommended to get the same vaccine brand for all three doses, whenever possible.
- Boys and men: One available vaccine (Gardasil) protects males against most genital warts and anal cancers. This vaccine is available for boys and men, 9 through 26 years of age.
Condoms may lower the risk of HPV. To be most effective, they should be used with every sex act, from start to finish. Condoms may also lower the risk of developing HPV-related diseases, such as genital warts and cervical cancer. But HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom – so condoms may not fully protect against HPV.
People can also lower their chances of getting HPV by being in a faithful relationship with one partner, limiting their number of sex partners, and choosing a partner who has had no or few prior sex partners. But even people with only one lifetime sex partner can get HPV. And it may not be possible to determine if a partner who has been sexually active in the past is currently infected.
Test for Infection
The HPV tests on the market are only used to help screen women at certain ages and with certain Pap test findings, for cervical cancer. There is no general test for men or women to check one’s overall “HPV status,” nor is there an approved HPV test to find HPV on the genitals or in the mouth or throat.
Please visit the Center of Disease Control website here for more information: http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/WhatIsHPV.html.