Human Papillomavirus

Did You Know?

HPV is the most common STD in the US. It is caused by any one of 150 related viruses that infect the epithelial cells (certain skin areas, and membranes of the body). Most sexually active people will get HPV. If you contract HPV, you are at risk for genital warts and cancers of the reproductive system, such as those of the penis or cervix.

History of HPV

Having sex was linked to cervical cancer in the 1960s. HPV cells were discovered in cervical cancer cells in the 1980s. The association between them was firmly established in the 1990s. 2006 marked the first year that HPV vaccine was made available.

What are the Symptoms of HPV?

HPV can be insidious because it can have no symptoms! Certain individuals may develop genital warts, bumpy growths on the genital region resembling cauliflowers in shape. An abnormal Pap test might be the only clue. Still others may not discover they have HPV until they are diagnosed with cancer.

Contracting HPV

HPV is sexually contracted from an infected partner. Vaginal, oral, and anal sex can all transmit the virus. An infected person does not need to show symptoms to be contagious. It can also be many years before symptoms appear.

HPV affects 14 million new individuals annually. 79 million Americans currently have HPV.

What if HPV is Untreated?

Some cases of HPV resolve spontaneously. In other cases, genital warts appear. For some, it can cause throat, cervical, penile, anal, or vulval cancers. People with weakened immunity are especially susceptible to experience complications from HPV.

Pregnant women with HPV are susceptible to genital warts. They are also more likely to receive an abnormal Pap result, which can indicate cervical cancer.

How to Limit the Spread of HPV

Young people ages 11-26 of both genders should be vaccinated. Females should receive regular Pap tests. Latex condoms can help, but might not cover all HPV affected areas, so transmission is still possible. Mutual monogamy will also help reduce the risk of contracting HPV.