Whether you believe it or not, HPV is a STI that affects at least 50% of sexually active men and women over the course of their lives. It is an STI that the average sexually active person doesn't know much about because the disease often carries no symptoms and 90% of the cases are fought off by the body's immune system within 2 years. If left untreated, HPV can cause some serious health issues from genital warts to cancer. Below are the facts about HPV including who it affects, how it is passed on and how to protect yourself from the virus.
Name:HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) There are over 40 types of the HPV Virus
Who it affects: Men, women and sometimes children (very rare)
How the virus is passed: HPV is passed through genital contact during vaginal or anal sex. It can also be passed during oral sex or just genital to genital contact without penetration. Most carriers of the infection don't know they have it and can carry it for years. *CURRENTLY approximately 20 million Americans are affected with HPV and another 6 Milllion will become newly affected each year*
The symptoms: Most people infected do not have symptoms of the virus, but if left untreated, it can cause some health issues
Symptoms of HPV related health issues:
Genital Warts-usually appear as a single bump or in a group in the genital area. They can also appear around or inside of the mouth. These warts can either be small or large, raised or flat and are in the shape of a cauliflower. They can appear within weeks or months of coming into contact with a person carrying the HPV virus. If left untreated, the warts will either go away, increase in size and number or remain unchanged. These warts will not turn into cancer. (1%of sexually active adults in the US contract warts at at one time or another)
Cervical Cancer- this form of cancer usually doesn't have any symptoms until it is advanced in its stages. this is why it is important for women to get regular pap smears and cervical cancer screenings to monitor the cells of the cervix for any abnormality. These tests can spot early signs of the disease so that problems are fixed early before the cancer develops. (Each year, 12,000 women in the US contract cervical cancer caused by HPV)
**NOTE: The HPV virus that causes warts is not the same type that causes cancer**
How to protect against HPV:
The Gardasil Vaccine is the most common vaccine on the market to help guard against the most common forms of HPV that cause genital warts and cervical cancer. It is recommended that women between the ages of 13 and 26 receive all three shots of the vaccine. Cervarix is another vaccine on the market for women as well.
It is also recommended that men become vaccinated to help prevent the spread of the virus. The only vaccine on the market for men is Gardasil and it is also recommended that men take all three shots associated with the vaccine.
Using condoms may help lower the risk of HPV as well as HPV related diseases such as genital warts and cervical cancer. Condoms should be used in every sexual act from start to finish, however, condoms will not protect the skin that is still exposed from the virus.
LIMIT YOUR AMOUNT OF PARTNERS
Being in a monogamous sexual relationship can help reduce the chance of contracting the HPV virus, however, the best way to prevent from getting the virus at all is to practice abstinence.