HPV Facts

If you are sexually active, it’s more than likely that you will contract an HPV infection at some point in your life. According to the CDC, about 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and experts estimate another six million American are affected each year. At least one out of every two sexually active people will contract a form of HPV at some point in their lives.

How do you contract HPV?

HPV is contracted through direct genital contact. Most cases are contracted during vaginal or anal sex, however it is possible to get HPV during oral sex or genital to genital contact. To date, there are over 40 HPV types that can affect the genitals , mouth and throat. It is possible to contract more than one type of HPV.

What are the symptoms of HPV?

As is the case with many STDs, most people don’t know they have HPV. Most people do not develop any symptoms of HPV. According to the CDC, in about 90% of cases, the body’s immune system clears the virus naturally in two years. HPV cases that do not clear the body naturally can cause genital warts, warts in the throat, cervical cancer, and cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx (back of the throat). The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types that can cause cancers. The CDC states that there is no way to know which people who get HPV will go on to develop cancer or other health problems.

Is there an HPV test?

Yes and no. Women can have routine pap smears to test for abnormalities and/or cervical cancer. There is currently no test for men.

Is HPV curable?

In most cases, the body clears the virus naturally within two years. On the other hand, a person can have HPV even if years have passed since they contracted the virus. Oftentimes, the individual¬† doesn’t realize they are infected or that they are passing the virus on.¬† Remember, it is possible to get more than one type of HPV.

Is there a vaccine for HPV?

Yes. According to the CDC, vaccines can protect males and females against some of the most common types of HPV that can lead to disease and cancer. These vaccines are given in three shots, and are most effective when given at 11 or 12 years of age. For women, Cervarix and Gardasil are available as an HPV vaccine. For men, Gardasil is available as a vaccine for HPV.

How do you prevent HPV?

Obviously, abstinence is the only 100% effective way to prevent HPV. For those who are sexually active, condoms lower the risk of contracting HPV but do not protect against areas that are not covered. Limiting your partners and being in a monogamous relationship is another way to lower your risk, but it only takes one wrong decision to contract the virus. Even if you only have one sexual partner, you can contract the virus. At least 50% of sexually active people will contract some form of HPV in their lives. With that in mind, if you are planning on having sex, it’s a good idea to look into the vaccines and arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can about HPV.

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