Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
What is HPV?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. There are more than 150 types of HPV which can cause different health issues, including cancer and warts. About 14 million new infections of HPV occur in men and women in the U.S. each year.
Who is at risk for HPV?
- Both men and women are at risk for HPV.
- Nearly all sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives, including anyone who is having (or has ever had) unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex.
How is HPV spread?
- HPV is spread by having vaginal, oral or anal sex with someone who has HPV. It is possible to have multiple types of HPV at one time.
- Because HPV usually has no symptoms and goes away on its own, most people do not realize they have HPV or that they are passing it on to sexual partners.
- In rare cases, a pregnant woman with HPV could pass it on to her baby during vaginal delivery.
What health problems does HPV cause?
HPV can stay in the body for years, and health problems caused by HPV, including cancer, may take years to develop.
- HPV causes thousands of new cases of penile, vaginal, vulvar, cervical, throat and anal cancers in the U.S. each year.
- HPV also causes warts on the genitals, hands or feet. If left untreated, genital warts may go away, stay the same, or grow in size or number.
How do I know if I have HPV?
HPV testing is available for women age 30 or older, or for a woman who has an abnormal Pap test. There is no HPV test for men, though they can be infected and pass HPV to sexual partners.
How is HPV treated?
There is no cure for HPV, but there are treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause. Additionally, vaccination and condom use can help prevent HPV infection.
Is there a vaccine to prevent HPV?
Yes, the HPV vaccine is safe, effective and can prevent cancer. It’s recommended for 11 or 12-year-old boys and girls because the vaccine produces the strongest immune protection against HPV when given at this age. It’s best to get the vaccine early, before potential exposure to HPV; but men and women can receive the vaccine up to age 26. Using condoms can also help prevent HPV infection, but HPV can still infect areas not covered by a condom. The most effective way to prevent HPV is getting vaccinated.
- American Cancer Society
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Denver Public Health