Human Papillomavirus

What is HPV?

HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses. Each HPV virus in this large group is given a number which is called its HPV type. HPV is named for the warts (papillomas) some HPV types can cause. Some other HPV types can lead to cancer, especially cervical cancer. There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital areas of males and females.

How can you get hpv?

HPV is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. It is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.

How to prevent HPV?

Because HPV is so easily passed on, it is quite difficult to prevent yourself from being infected with this common virus. Up to 80% of males and females will be infected with at least one type of HPV at some time in their life. But remember that most people clear HPV infection from their body without any symptoms or health problems.
If used correctly, condoms can help reduce the risk of genital HPV. However condoms don't provide 100% protection against HPV as it is transmitted through genital skin contact not just sexual intercourse. It is important to remember that condoms also provide protection against other sexually transmitted diseases.


It is now possible to be vaccinated against some types of HPV.

In females, vaccination may help protect against cervical cancer, some vaginal, vulval and anal cancers and genital warts.

In males vaccination may help protect against genital warts and some anal cancers.

What are the symptoms of HPV?

In men, warts usually occur on the penis, especially under the foreskin in uncircumcised men, or in the urethra. In women, genital warts occur on the vulva, vaginal wall, cervix, and skin around the vaginal area. Genital warts may develop in the area around the anus and in the rectum, especially in people who engage in anal sex. Warts cause no symptoms in many people but cause occasional burning pain, itching, or discomfort in some.

The warts usually appear 1 to 6 months after infection with HPV, beginning as tiny, soft, moist, pink or gray growths. They grow rapidly and become rough, irregular bumps, which sometimes grow out from the skin on narrow stalks. Their rough surfaces make them look like a small cauliflower. Warts often grow in clusters.

Warts may grow more rapidly and spread more widely in pregnant women and in people who have a weakened immune system, such as those who have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

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