What is HPV?
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the name of a group of viruses that has more than 100 different types. HPV is sometimes called the wart virus because some types of HPV cause warts on the hands, feet or genitals. Some other types (that don’t cause warts) can turn into cancer over many, many years. Most cases of HPV are not dangerous, though, ASHA recommends getting the HPV vaccine, along with Pap and HPV tests when appropriate.
HPV is the most common STI in the United States, but most people don’t know they have it or can spread the virus to a partner.
How do I get HPV?
HPV and genital warts are spread when you have skin-to-skin contact even if you don’t go “all the way.” So just rubbing genitals together with someone who already has the virus can result in your getting it too. Condoms are a smart idea: While they don’t offer 100% protection, using condoms consistently and correctly can reduce the risk of getting HPV and other STIs.
Is there a cure for HPV?
No. HPV is a virus, and there is no direct treatment for the virus. There is a treatment for the conditions HPV might cause, like genital warts (see Can genital warts be treated? below). Most people never have a problem with HPV because their body’s immune system keeps the virus from ever becoming a problem.
What are genital warts?
Genital warts are usually harmless and often go away on their own in a few months.
Genital warts can be found on the penis, scrotum, vulva (entire outer female genital area), vagina (inside or out), anus (inside or out) or groin.
Genital warts can be removed, and your healthcare provider can offer several treatment options.
When should I get a Pap test?
It is generally recommended that young women have their first Pap test at age 21. Talk with your healthcare provider about your Pap test schedule.
Should I be afraid of getting cancer?
HPV is a very common virus, but most females with HPV do not get cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is slow-growing and usually takes years to come along. Regular Pap tests are important, though. Ask your healthcare provider how often you should have yours.
What about HPV vaccines?
Vaccination can help protect both males and females from HPV and the disease that are associated with it—like cervical cancer and genital warts. HPV vaccines are for both females and males ages 9-45. Since the vaccine was first offered in 2007, studies have shown that HPV infection rates for the types of HPV the vaccine have dropped 56% in teenage girls ages 14-19.
Vaccination is a proven way to prevent HPV and cervical cancer. Find out where you can get vaccinated today. (Note: While the CDC site offers STI testing locations, the search results also show locations where HPV vaccination is available.)