Before the turn of the century, there were a series of sexually transmitted infections that people were worried about. If you think back to that time, HPV was not an infection on this list. The population was worried about chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes until HPV just became one of many to add to the list. There’s been tons of talk about HPV ranging from what it is to getting the vaccine. Here’s all you need to know about HPV.
While commonly called HPV, this three letter acronym stands for Human papillomavirus. Its name might give nothing away to the severity of this infection, but there are tons to know. HPV is actually the most common STI in the United States with over 3 million cases diagnosed each year. Similar to any other sexually transmitted infection (STI), the infection is “transmitted” through sexual contact. This includes unprotected oral, vaginal, and anal sex. A mother can also spread the infection to her child through pregnancy and breastfeeding.
One important factor about HPV is that it often manifests with no symptoms. While the most common symptoms are warts and itching around the genitals, showing no symptoms doesn’t mean that one is incapable of spreading the infection. Another important factor to be aware of is that once you’re infected with HPV, it’s a lifelong situation. Due to there being no cure for HPV, the infection stays within the body for the remainder of life. The infection can even lead to more serious conditions like cervical cancer. This fact leaves most people wondering what they can do. Well, there are options!
Unlike most STIs, there is a vaccine for HPV. With there being over 200 strains of the infection, the vaccine only helps again a few strains, but it is definitely recommended! For women, once you become sexually active or when you turn 21, whichever occurs first, it is recommended to schedule a routine Pap smear with your gynecologist every three years. This will help catch any changes to your cervix. With HPV being the most common STI, it’s only normal that there be misconceptions and myths lying around. As we always love to do, let’s debunk some myths!
Guys can’t contract HPV. FALSE. While there are a few things that separate HPV from other STIs, the biology is the same and the infection works the same as any other STI.
HPV always goes away on its own. FALSE. Since HPV seems like a “newer” STI, there are tons of misconceptions about it. Another one is that the infection always goes away on its own. This certainly isn’t true. While the infection does go away in some, since there is no cure, HPV can become a lifelong battle for some.
When adults think about sexually transmitted infections, their radar probably doesn’t even cover HPV since most sexually active people’s minds are focusing on the more talked about infections. The truth about HPV is that it is never too early to get checked. Since it can be passed through sexual activity as well as a mother, this means everyone should take protections from the infection. Get tested!