HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, is the name for a group of over 100 types of viruses. There are more than 40 types of HPV that are passed on through sexual contact. Genital HPV is the most common, affecting around 9 million Americans in their mid-late 20’s. It is thought that 80% of women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lifetime.
HPV is spread through:
So, you’ve been diagnosed? What should you do now?
HPV is the most common STI in the U.S. It is so prevalent that nearly all sexually active men and women will get it in their lives. In the majority of cases, your body will be able to fight off HPV on its own, causing the virus to go away in one-two years. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a non-issue. Once there is a diagnosis, it’s important to work with your doctor to stay on top of any immediate concerns and associated health risks.
Whenever you have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection, have a discussion with any sexual partners you have had since your previous clean tests. Many times HPV has no symptoms, therefore a person may not even know they have HPV. Informing them of your diagnosis gives them the opportunity to get tested for themselves.
There is no cure for the HPV virus itself yet, but there are treatments available for the health problems that HPV can cause. Some strains of HPV may lead to additional health problems, such as genital warts, and cervical or oral cancer. Warts will often show up as a bump or a grouping of bumps of various sizes and shapes in the genital region. Your health care provider can diagnose warts by looking at your genital area. Genital warts can be treated by your doctor with prescription medication.
Some forms of HPV can lead to cases of cervical cancer. Routine Pap smears and follow-ups with your gynecologist is the most important thing you can do to prevent cervical cancer. You may need to have what’s called a colposcopy, a simple procedure that uses a magnifying lens that looks for very small abnormalities on the cervix that can’t be easily seen.
The best way to avoid contracting HPV is to get vaccinated before becoming sexually active. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 12 should get the vaccine, though it is approved for anyone between 9 years and 26 years of age. (Recent research has also suggested that anyone over the age of 26 can benefit from the HPV vaccine, even after diagnosis, to prevent contracting other, possibly more dangerous, forms of HPV.)
The vaccine is given in multiple doses (shots) over 6 to 12 months. Children age 9 to 14 receive 2 doses. Those 15 or older receive 3 doses. It’s important to get all of the doses to make sure you are getting the most protection from HPV infection.
It’s important to remember that just because you’ve had an HPV diagnosis, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Regular treatments and continuing to practice safe sex will keep you and any future sexual partners healthy.
If you’re concerned about HPV, or would like more information on the HPV vaccine, Miami Center of Excellence is here to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information on the market. Call us at
(305) 515-5425, or make an appointment online.