Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

by: Moesha Ciceron


HPV stands for human papillomavirus, but there are actually more than 100 related viruses in this group. Each HPV virus is given a number or type. The term "papilloma" refers to a kind of wart that results from some HPV types.

HPV lives in the body's epithelial cells. These are flat and thin cells found on the skin's surface. Exceptions to this is when the virus infects the mouth or throat.

Of the 100 HPV types, about 60 types cause warts on areas such as the hands or feet. The other 40 or so types of HPV are sexually transmitted and are drawn to the body's mucous membranes, such as the moist layers around the anal and genital areas

How are diagnosis made?

HPV tests are available to help screen women aged 30 years and older for cervical cancer. These HPV tests are not recommended to screen men, adolescents, or women under the age of 30 years. There is no general HPV test for men or women to check one's overall "HPV status." Also, there is not an approved HPV test to find HPV in the mouth or throat.


About 20 million people in the U.S. are currently infected with HPV. Each year, another 6.2 million people get a new HPV infection.

Disease Course

This disease is spread most commonly through sexual transmission (bodily fluids).


  • Warts which can appear within months after getting HPV.
  • Cancer which often takes years—even decades—to develop after a person gets HPV.

Target Audience

People who are more likely to get HPV:

  • Those who have sex at an early age,
  • Those who have many sex partners,
  • Or those who have a sex partner who has had multiple partners