HPV is the most common STD and at least 50% of sexually active people will get it at some time in their lives. The body usually clears HPV on its own without causing any problems, but HPV can lead to certain kinds of cancer.
There are more than 100 different types of HPV. Most of the time there are no symptoms and the virus clears on its own, but several types can cause genital warts or lead to vaginal, anal, throat and cervical cancer. The types of HPV that cause warts do not cause cancer, but they can indicate a higher risk for having the types of HPV that are linked to cancer. The types of HPV that can cause cancer do not show any signs.
The body will usually clear HPV infections on its own within a couple of months. Warts can be treated in several different ways:
Patient can apply creams, gels, and solutions (prescribed by health care provider)
A health care provider can freeze them off with liquid nitrogen
A health care provider can burn them off with trichloroacetic acid or bichloroacetic acid
A health care provider can apply a tincture or ointment that will remove the warts
A health care provider can cut off the warts using a scalpel, scissors, curette or electro-surgery
All of these options may take multiple treatments to completely remove warts.
Cancer-causing HPV can be monitored in females through regular Pap tests, but there is no specific treatment to eliminate HPV from the body. If the HPV causes abnormal cells to form, a health care provider will likely remove the cells and biopsy them. Depending on the type of abnormalities, the provider may recommend a colposcopy (a special exam that magnifies the walls of the vagina and cervix) or LEEP (a procedure to remove the abnormal cells before they can cause cancer.
Prevention of HPV
The only 100% effective way to prevent HPV transmission is abstinence from any sexual contact, including oral, anal and vaginal sex.
Limit your sexual partners – to preferably just one. The more partners you have, the greater the chance of contracting HPV.
Be Circumcised. Research shows that the risk of HPV in men is lowered when they are circumcised. The risk for infecting their female sexual partners is also lower.
Get the Pap Test. It’s important for women to have regular check-ups, which include Pap smears to look for cervical cancer in its earliest stages — when it is most treatable. The Pap smear is a test that checks for abnormalities in the cells that line the cervix and is one of the best ways to detect cervical cancer.
Don’t Have Sex Too Young. The younger you are when you start having sex, the greater your risk for HPV transmission. That’s because you’re more likely to come in contact with a partner who has HPV.
Eat a healthy diet, one that is low in fat and sugars and rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, vitamins, and minerals. Also, get regular exercise, don’t smoke, and don’t drink to excess. Keeping your body in good shape helps boost your immune system and a healthy immune system is able to fight off infections, including some of the more than 100 types of HPV that are out there.
HPV vaccine is an inactivated (not live) vaccine which protects against four major types of HPV.
These include two types that cause about 70% of cervical cancer and two types that cause about 90% of genital warts. HPV vaccine can prevent most genital warts and most cases of cervical cancer.
Protection from HPV vaccine is expected to be long-lasting. But vaccinated women still need cervical cancer screening because the vaccine does not protect against all HPV types that cause cervical cancer.
Who should get HPV vaccine and when?
HPV vaccine is routinely recommended for girls 11 and 12 years of age. Doctors may give it to girls as young as 9 years
The HPV4 vaccine (the type recommended for prevention of genital warts in girls) may also be given in three doses to boys aged 9 to 26.
Why is HPV vaccine given to girls at this age?
It is important for girls to get HPV vaccine before their first sexual contact — because they have not been exposed to HPV. For these girls, the vaccine can prevent almost 100% of disease caused by the four types of HPV targeted by the vaccine.
However, if a girl or woman is already infected with a type of HPV, the vaccine will not prevent disease from that type.
The vaccine is also recommended for girls and women 13 through 26 years of age who did not receive it when they were younger.
HPV vaccine is given as a 3-dose series:
1st Dose: Now
2nd Dose: 2 months after Dose 1
3rd Dose: 6 months after Dose 1
If you suspect that you might have contracted a STD, you can do a self-test quiz – the STD Quiz.
You may also chat to a facilitator on LIVE CHAT if you have more questions. The service is free and you may stay anonymous.