HPV is a current buzzword that has been stirring up concerns for the last 15 years. Human Papillomavirus is transferred through skin-to-skin contact and is the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease today. In fact, at least 50% of sexually active people will contract HPV at some point in their lifetime.
While 50% might seem high, it’s important to point out that there are over 100 different strains of HPV and not all of them lead to major concerns like cervical cancer or herpes. 40 of those strains affect genitalia in both sexes and is passed along most often through sexual contact.
Many people who contract HPV do not know that they have been infected. Actually, an infected person can pass the virus to others years after having received it from the previous host. However, in most cases HPV goes away on it’s own and never cause any health problems.
On some occasions, a visual indicator does present itself. The most common sign is genital warts. These skin irregularities can vary in size and shape and sometimes look like cauliflower. While that does not sound pleasant, genital warts are usually easy to diagnose by a healthcare professional conducting an exam of the genitals.
A more serious concern linked to HPV is cervical cancer. It can take decades for cancer to develop after being exposed to the virus. Those with compromised immune systems are less likely to fight off the infection and often develop even more serious effects.
With these concerns in mind, there are three ways to prevent HPV:
- Get Vaccinated: HPV vaccines can be administered to both genders and are safe and effective. The shot is administered in three separate doses over a six-month period. It is crucial to complete all three rounds of the vaccine or it will not be as effective.
- Get Screened: Annual appointments with a general doctor or gynecologist help prevent HPV and the cancers it can cause from going undiagnosed. Typical tests like Pap smears may be accompanied by an HPV test as well.
- Practice Safe Sex: Because HPV is passed by touch usually via sexual contact the use of latex condoms can help prevent in spreading or contracting the virus. While condoms cannot prevent the threat of spreading entirely, they do limit the amount of skin that touches. Of course, it also helps to be sexually monogamous, which limits exposure.
While there is no treatment for HPV, many of the other complications that can arise are treatable. However, it is best to prevent HPV before problems arise.