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Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

At UHCS:

We can help you protect yourself from HPV and the potential outcomes of persistent HPV infection. We offer Gardasil (an HPV vaccine indicated for people aged 9-26, regardless of gender), sexual health visits, wart treatment, and Pap smears, which sometimes include HPV testing.

From an Expert at UHCS:

Many students have questions about human papillomavirus (HPV), as it is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States with estimates that 8 out of 10 sexually active individuals will get an HPV infection at some point in their lives (http://www.arhp.org/hpv-tool/). Most often, people get HPV from vaginal and anal sex, but you don’t have to have intercourse to get HPV – intimate skin to skin contact or sharing sex toys can spread HPV infection.

There is not one single HPV virus – instead, HPV really represents a large group of different types or strains of virus (over 100!), which may have effects ranging from warts on your hands, feet, or genitals to the rarer but more serious consequences of cancers of the head, neck, and genitals, particularly cervical cancer. Most often, HPV has no symptoms (asymptomatic).

The types of HPV are divided up into low risk and high risk types.

  • Low risk HPV strains cause warts, which are usually not harmful and most often clear up on their own within a few months, though they can be treated to speed up resolution.
  • High risk HPV strains usually have no symptoms, and while they most often clear up on their own within 1-2 years, persistent high risk HPV infections (usually 10+ years) could cause cancer.

There are no recommended screening tests for HPV in young people. If you have a genital lesion or bump, a health care provider may examine you and counsel you about whether or not it is HPV, as there are other infections or conditions which can mimic genital warts. Testing cervical cells for HPV is sometimes a part of or follow-up to a Pap smear, which is a screening test for early signs of cervical cancer (see Pap test). There is currently no way to test for asymptomatic HPV infections in males.

How can you protect yourself and your sexual partners? PREVENTION! There are two HPV vaccines on the market. Gardasil helps prevent the four strains that cause around 90% of genital warts cases, 70% of cervical and vaginal cancers, and 50% of vulvar cancers and Gardasil is approved for ALL people aged 9-26 to help reduce the risk for genital warts and HPV-related cancers. Cervarix is approved for females only and does not protect against genital warts. The other way to significantly reduce your odds of getting HPV or of spreading it to your sexual partner(s) is to use condoms or dental dams ALL the time. Finally, see your health care provider regularly (at least once yearly if you’ve been sexually active) to discuss your sexual and reproductive health.

- Liz Falk, MS, WHNP-BC

More Information:

American Sexual Health Association – an organization dedicated to sexual health for people across the lifespan, including information on specific STDs as well as help with talking to your partner about an STD diagnosis.
Association of Reproductive Health Professionals - Interactive website, including an optional video guide, for HPV information
Link to Sexually Transmitted Diseases page

 

Updated: 07/15/13