Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that infects the skin of the vagina, penis, anus, and throat areas. As of 2019, almost 80 million Americans have HPV, making it the most common STI in the United States.
HPV is transmitted through skin to skin contact during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Using a condom or dental dam during sexual activity can reduce the chance of transmission.
Symptoms & Complications
Most of the time, a person cannot see or feel HPV. Many people who have HPV don’t know it, and most cases will just go away on their own. Lower-risk strains of HPV can cause genital warts, but some higher-risk strains can lead to cancers of the genital, anal, or throat area if they’re not detected.
If you are thinking about becoming sexually active or already are, it is important to talk to your doctor about ways to prevent or detect HPV. Higher-risk strains of HPV are detected in females through a test called a Pap smear. This is a swab of the cervix that females start to get regularly at the age of 21. Unfortunately, there is currently no commonly used test to detect the high risk strains of HPV in males.
HPV is not curable but it is treatable. Genital warts can be removed by a medical provider, but they may come back. With regular screenings, cancer can be prevented and treated when caught early. The majority (90%) of people who get HPV will fight it off in two years on their own! It’s very important to stay healthy and keep your immune system strong to fight off the virus in case you become infected.
There is a vaccine for HPV that protects against many of the high-risk strains of the virus. We need parental consent to administer the vaccine at our clinic, so if you are under 18 and are interested, talk to your parents about it!