HPV: What is it?

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. There are many different types of HPV. Some types can cause health problems including genital warts and cancers. But there are shots that can keep you from getting some types of HPV.

HPV: How can I get it?

You can get HPV by having oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has the virus. It is most often spread during vaginal or anal sex. HPV can be passed even when an infected person is not showing signs of the disease at all.

HPV: Prevention

  • Vaccinations (shots)
  • Using latex condoms the right way all the time can reduce your chances of getting HPV only when the infected area is protected. However, HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom – so condoms may not give full protection against getting HPV
  • Using female condoms
  • There are vaccines (shots) that work well for the four most common types of HPV viruses that may cause cancer as a result of HPV exposure. They can protect both males and females against cancers caused by HPV when given to people who are between the ages of 11 and 26. HPV vaccines are given in three shots over a six month period; it is important to get all three doses
  • New vaccines are now available that provide extra protection against the nine most common types of HPV
  • Not having sex (abstinence)

HPV: How can I get tested for it?

Most HPV viruses go away on their own over a period of three months.

Male testing:

  • There is no test to find out a male’s “HPV status.” Also, there is no approved HPV test to find HPV in the mouth or throat. However, genital warts are a good sign that males need to get treated

Female testing:

  • A “PAP” test checks a woman for cervical cancer and can also test for HPV. This test is usually done by a gynecologist (woman’s health doctor) once a year for females who are sexually active or 21 and older
  • If you have anal sex, your health provider can do an anal pap test to see if that part of the body has been exposed to the HPV virus

HIV: How can I protect my partner(s) once I know I have it?

  • Getting vaccinated can lower your chances of getting some types of HPV turning into cervical cancer
  • Using condoms
  • Being in a mutually monogamous relationship – or having sex only with someone who only has sex with you