What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?

HPV is the abbreviation for Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) and it is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are numerous HPV types that a person can be infected with. More than 40 have been discovered and each one can affect both men and women. It is well known that HPV affects the genital areas but it can also affect the mouth and throat. It is also possible to be infected by more than one type of HPV.

What is HPV?
HPV is passed through sexual intercourse; anal, oral, and vaginal. HPV can be passed even when no sign or symptoms of HPV exist in either partner. It is quite common for the person with HPV to not know they have been infected and continue you to pass it to other and thus other will pass it to others.

Signs and Symptoms
As I stated before, it’s common that people with HPV pass it without knowing they have it. This is due to the fact in most cases symptoms and health issues do not develop. The body will fight off HPV in about 2 years 90% of the time.

Genital Warts are the most common symptom of HPV infections. However, this happens only in certain HPV types. In rare cases warts can form in the throat; this condition is called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP). The warts block the airway and make it difficult to breathe.
Cancer is another possible health risk of HPV. Certain types of HPV can turn normal cells in the body to abnormal cells. Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer developed; other, less common cancers include cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, head, neck, tongue, tonsils, and throat. Cervical cancer usually does not show symptoms until it is at an advanced stage. At this point it is a very serious condition and very hard to treat. Women should be screened regularly for cervical cancer.

HPV Prevention
Vaccines protect against the most common types of HPV. HPV vaccines are administered in 3 doses over 3 months. All 3 doses should be taken to get the best protection.

Females: Gardasil vaccine and Cervarix vaccine can protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. Gardasil also protects against most genital warts and been known to protect against anal, vaginal and vulvar cancers.
Males: Gardasil vaccine can protect males against most genital warts and anal cancers. Condoms and/ barriers may also lower the risk of HPV infection but to get the best protections all sexual acts need to utilize condoms and barriers from the beginning to end. However, condoms and barriers cannot protect 100% as HPV can affect areas that are not covered by a condom or barrier.
Individuals can lower their risk of getting HPV by limiting their number of sexual partners, although being monogamous would lower the risk even more. One could also choose a partner that does not have a lot of sexual partners.

There is no treatment for HPV, but there are treatments for the symptoms:

Visible genital warts can be removed with medications. They can also be treated by a doctor. Warts often disappear over time.
Abnormal cervical cells often become normal over time but they can become cancerous if they remain abnormal. These cells can usually be treated to prevent cervical cancer from developing.
Cervical cancer is most treatable when it is diagnosed and treated early. Problems found can usually be treated by a doctor. Most women who get screened for cervical cancer regularly can find problems before cancer even develops.

Other HPV-related cancers are also more treatable when diagnosed and treated early.
Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis can be treated with surgery or medicines. It can sometimes take many treatments or surgeries over a period of years.
Prevention is 100 times better than treatment. However, the only guaranteed, 100% way to prevent HPV is by not having sex (abstinence).