Human Papilloma Virus

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a virus which can be passed from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact. There are over 100 types of HPV that have been discovered. Approximately thirty of these infect the genital areas of both women and men and are spread as a result of sexual contact. HPV is a very common virus, with some studies indicating that at least 3 out of 4 sexually active people will become infected with a genital HPV at some point in their lives.

HPV is mostly distributed through vaginal, oral or anal sex, however sexual intercourse is not required for the virus to occur. The infection is spread by skin-to-skin contact. Sexual contact with an infected partner is the most prevalent method for the virus to spread. Just as with numerous other sexually transmitted diseases, HPV infections very often show no signs or symptoms. There are approximately 12 varieties of HPV’s that result in genital warts. These warts might appear on the exterior or interior of the vagina or on the penis with the possibility of spreading to nearby skin. Genital warts can also grow on the vulva, on the cervix, or around the anus.  An estimated 15 types of HPV are connected to cancers of the anus, vulva, cervix, vagina and penis. There are also high risk types that can lead to cancer of the head and neck.

There are some methods to help reduce the chance of contracting an infection:

  • Limiting your number of sexual partners.
  • Using condoms to lower your risk of infection when engaging in vaginal, anal or oral sex.*

* It is important to know that condoms are not able to fully protect you from HPV infection. HPV can be spread just by touching an infected area not covered by a condom. Female condoms may provide a little more protection than male condoms because they cover more skin.