Source: BBC UK
What comes to mind when you hear the word STIs?
HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and a few other popular STIs right?
The word HPV rarely pops up. As a matter of fact, many people don’t know what the acronym stands for and the very few who have an idea of what it stands for don’t know that it is and STI.
Whichever category you fall under, be rest assured that you are not alone and you have come to the right place where you would learn all you need to know about HPV.
What is HPV?
HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus. It is a sexually transmitted infection. HPV affects people of all ages, gender and social class.
How Does one get HPV?
HPV can be contracted through the following:
Sexual intercourse including vaginal, anal and oral sex
Other forms of contacts involving the genital area
Sustained skin to skin contact among household members
Occasionally from a mother to her newborn
How HPV can’t be contracted
HPV can’t be contracted through the following:
Infected person’s blood
It’s worthy to note that while HPV can be contracted through body/genital fluids, it can’t be contracted through blood transfusion.
How Common is HPV?
HPV is a very common virus. In fact, HPV is the most common STI of them all. Up to 9 in 10 people will get the virus at some point. An estimated 75-80% of sexually active adults will acquire the virus before the age of 50. Many people become infected between ages 15 and 25
What does HPV Cause?
Most people have no sign or symptom of infection with HPV. Most people also do not develop problems caused by HPV. The body will usually clear the virus on its own
About 10-20% of women will persistently have the HPV virus. People who have persistent HPV infection can develop several diseases. The common ones are genital warts and cervical cancer. Others include anal, penile, vulva, mouth and throat cancers. Warts in various areas of the body can also occur.
About 90% of cervical cancers are due to HPV infection. Over 100 types of HPV exists. Many do not cause health problems. Some are low risk and others high risk for causing cancers
The low risk ones include HPV types 6 and 11 which cause 90% of genital warts. The most common high risk types are types 16 and 18, which cause 70% of all cases of cervical cancer
Who Can get HPV?
HPV can be gotten from anyone who has ever had genital contact with another person. Both men and women may get it. Infected people may pass it to others without knowing it. The risk of getting HPV is increased with some lifestyle choices
Risks of getting HPV
The following can increase one’s risk of getting HPV:
Early age of first sex
Multiple sexual partners
History of other sexually transmitted infections
Having a partner who has had multiple partners
Suppressed immunity e.g. HIV infection
Symptoms of HPV
There are no symptoms of an HPV infection. The body usually clears the infection itself
Many people never know they were infected. The infection may last longer in people who have certain types of HPV. They may come down with warts, pre cancer or cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis or throat
A wart is a small fleshy bump on the skin or mucous membrane. Warts are not cancerous and they may occur anywhere on the skin, palms and sole or the genitals. The appearance of warts depends on its location on the body and the thickness of the skin. They are more likely to develop on broken skin.
Genital warts are common viral sexually transmitted infections which can grow around the vulva, anus, penis, vagina and cervix. The lesions are usually painless but they may be disfiguring or embarrassing
They may also itch or bleed. It may resolve on its own in 20-30% of people The treatment for genital wart can be difficult or lengthy
Tests for HPV
It takes several years for cervical cancer to develop. A test known as pap test can detect early signs of abnormal changes in the cervix. This allows early treatment so that it does not become cancerous. HPV test can also be done (where available) to help detect many of the high risk types
Cure for HPV?
Sadly, there is no cure for the virus itself however, there are treatments for the health problem it causes.
Prevention of HPV
The following can help to reduce the chance of infection:
You can choose to abstain from sex
Limit the number of your sexual partners
Use condom to reduce the risk of being infected when you have sex. Condoms cannot fully protect you from infection
Get the vaccine if you are eligible
There are Three vaccines that protect against HPV. These vaccines are:
These vaccines can prevent you from getting nine HPV types that cause:
90% of cervical cancers
90% of genital warts
Most genital HPV-related cancers in males
Who should receive the vaccine?
The vaccine can be given to boys and girls from ages 9 years to 11 years. It is not recommended to be given to people older than 26 years. The vaccine works best before a person becomes sexually active.
How is the Vaccine given?
It is given as an injection
You will receive 2 or 3 doses in the upper arm
The 3 doses will be given at 0, 2 and 6 months
It is important you receive the doses
If you miss a dose at the specified time, you can still get a catch up dose as soon as it is possible to do so
Side effects of HPV Vaccine
Although the vaccine is very safe, some people may experience mild side effects like pain, redness or swelling at the site of the injection. This is normal and usually subsides quickly
Pap smear is also known as cervical cytology test . It is a test for cervical cancer. The test looks for cell changes caused by HPV. The test detects these changes early so that the cervix can be treated before it becomes full blown cancer. It is a quick test that can be done easily in the doctor’s office
Who Should get a pap smear?
You will still need the pap smear in future even if you got the vaccine. This is because the vaccine does not protect you against all the HPV types that causes cervical cancer
When should I get a Pap Smear?
Doctors recommend that you begin pap testing at age 21. You should have the test every 3 years from age 21 to 65 if all goes well. Where available, you may combine it with testing for HPV. Combining pap and HPV tests means you can get tested every 5 years instead
HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus
Though most people will clear it, it causes disease in people in which it persists
Genital warts and cervical cancer are the most common diseases associated with HPV
Cervical cancer can be prevented through vaccination and timely pap smear tests
Speak to a Doctor today about HPV or any other medical concern you have by registering on https://www.kompletecare.com and take advantage of our online consultation. With KompleteCare™, a Doctor is just a click away.
Patient education: Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine (Beyond the Basics). www.uptodate.com/contents/human-papillomavirus-hpv-vaccine-beyond-the-basic
HPV Facts and Brochures. https://www.cdc.gov.std.facts –brochures.htm
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org.media.faq073
Zyl, T Public Health Fact sheet: Patient information about HPV and the HPV vaccine-2007. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.articles