HPV: What is it?


You have probably heard of HPV before but do you really know what it is? HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus: the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are over forty different types of HPV that can affect the genitals of males and females. They can also affect the mouth and throat.

HPV is most often spread through genital contact. It may also be passed on during oral sex. One of the hardest things about preventing the spread of this common STI is the fact that most people with HPV do not develop symptoms or health problems from it. Many people with HPV are not aware that they have it, therefore, they unknowingly spread it to others through sexual contact. In many cases, the body’s immune system will clear up the infection on its own within two years. However, in the cases where the infection does not clear on its own, it can cause genital warts, cervical cancer and other less common types of cancers including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus and oropharynx (back of the throat).

There are currently two vaccines available for preventing HPV in girls and women: Cervarix and Gardasil. Both are given in three shots. It is currently recommended that girls between the ages of 11 and 12 receive one of the vaccines. It is also recommended for girls age 13-26 who did not receive the shots when they were younger.

Gardasil can also be used to protect males against most genital warts and anal cancers. It is recommended for 11 and 12 year-old boys and for males 13 through 26 years of age who did not get any of the shots when they were younger.

Being informed is one of the best ways to stop the spread of HPV. To get more information about HPV and how to best protect yourself or your children, talk to one of the experienced professionals at Marietta OB-GYN Affiliates, P.A.